Saturday, May 13, 2017

You, Cheryl Thompson, Are a Miracle!

I was honored to be a part of the retirement celebration for my dear, dear friend, sister and colleague, Cheryl. Cheryl has been teaching for 32 years (!!!!) and we met 9 years ago at the beginning of my teaching career. She has been the most consistent voice of Truth for me in this profession and I am forever grateful for all that she has taught me and given to me.
As a surprise to her, I was asked to say a few words about the incredible person and teacher she is. My words don't seem like enough, but I want to preserve them here in order to honor this true Miracle in my life.
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It is absolutely no small feat that you have been a teacher for 32 years. Since I teach Language Arts, I am not going to do the math to figure out how many lives you have changed in 32 years, but it’s in the thousands. Thousands of students have been influenced by you. Thousands of students have learned to love reading and writing because of you. Thousands of students have been given roots and wings from you. Thousands.

You do a unit on Transcendentalism and the power of “everyday” miracles as your students experience the beautiful words of Walt Whitman. Within this unit, students search through their own “everydayness” to determine Miracles that surround them. They see the beauty that is right in front of them and they realize that Miracles are all around--we just have to look.

You my friend have been this “everyday” Miracle to thousands of people. Students, staff, administrators, parents, and community members have seen you as a Miracle in their life. Through these people, there has been a ripple effect. Anyone who has been in your “Miracle-ness” realizes that they are better than they were before they met you and that naturally transfers into other parts of their lives. Your consistency of influence has reached far and wide. You are a force to be reckoned with and anyone who has been lucky enough to be in your space has been given this Miracle of you--and we are better people because of it.

I can say this because, you my friend, are a Miracle to me. When I chose this career in my mid-thirties and decided to teach at West, I was terrified for multiple reasons. I was facing a new career, an unfamiliar district, and zero friends in the biz. When I arrived at West, you became my mentor. At first it was because the district made you and I hang out--the mentorship program paid you to show me the ropes. Boy am I glad that you took the “cash”. From this mandated mentor/mentee relationship, you have become a capital “M” mentor in my life--the real deal, the kind of Mentor that money can’t buy. You have given me endless amounts of advice and help. You have given me space to vent, cry, wonder, worry, fear, love and embrace all there is to this crazy career. You have been a Miracle to me.

I want you to hold onto to the fact that you are a Miracle to everyone you meet as you enter into this new phase of this journey. Your job description will change and the daily routine you’ve had for 32 years will change--and this won’t be for the faint of heart either. Transition is never easy--even when it is expected. But, the trepidation you may feel needs to be underscored with the Truth that you are a Miracle--and those that you will meet and influence in this next phase of life will interact with you, and they will never be the same.  

I think I speak for the thousands and thousands of people you have met, and I know it is true of me when I say
‘Thank You’ for so, so many things... Thank for for giving of yourself over and over and over again. Thank you for taking risks. Thank you for fiercely loving your students. Thank you for your passion for literature. Thank you for your passion for writing. Thank you for being flexible within the myriad of changes you’ve seen. Thank you for speaking up for things that needed your voice. Thank you for showing us that commitment and passion for this job is worth it. Thank you for being true to yourself. Thank you for showing us that Miracles are all around. Thank you for being one of those extremely valuable and special Miracles and for allowing us to be a part of this journey with you. I love you.

2 comments:

  1. Kari--I think I've read this a thousand times. Maybe that's hyperbole, but I almost have it memorized--that's just how many times. I cherish every single word. I cherish that you know me so well that you included my Transcendental Miracle Project. I cherish that you included our time as mentor/mentee, knowing full well that our roles were interchangeable then and continue to be now. I cherish that you say I am a force to be reckoned with--thanks for reckoning with me. I cherish the miracle metaphor entwined in your words. I cherish that you painstakingly crafted this beautiful work of art--I know the time and effort this process entails. Mostly I cherish you, Kari Laniel--the best, brightest, most gorgeous miracle I encountered during my time as a teacher. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  2. Were you a teacher in Madison, WI?

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