I returned from a weekend at the SEP (Salmonid Enhancement Conference) in Campbell River delighted to have taken a ferry and visited Vancouver Island for the first time this century. My friend, Ruth, who reminded me it was the first time this millenium, is constantly running into former students who shout after her, “Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Foster, remember me!!!”

I was delighted to find the following response to an older BLOG POST when I arrived home; more than heartwarming, it verified the theme of a recent post about advocacy. By choosing to become a teacher, I chose to be an advocate.When I entered teaching, I had no idea it would be a good fit or my natural calling, but I am lucky these things were true. To have a positive impact on anyone’s life is really all one can hope for…

Mikki, in my mind’s eye, you are still that young girl. Yet your writing is clearly that of an articulate, strong, young woman. The impact of your few words lived on for days…still does. I have met many former students, but none that has shared this experience of being part of the “disabled community”. My mother (who can’t seem to grasp that I am 57 years old) constantly asks when I am going to write and publish a book – she so believes my writing skills to be a marketable talent. Somehow, finally, I understand how she feels. Your ability to write well, to express your thoughts with a few powerful words is so apparent. Impactful… Delightful… I think that might be a bit of pride…like what my mother tries to express to me.

Mikki (Cowling) Chartier said May 22, 2011

Elaine Willis,

You were my 3rd and 4th grade teacher back in the 1980s at Grosvenor Road Elementary School. After all these years and wondering what’s happening today, I found your blog. You are a gifted teacher, who showed far more compassion to a very shy and anxious disabled child than our soulless system has demonstrated to you. I was stunned to find out you developed ataxia and chemical sensitivities, but from your blog and The Hindsight Years, it’s clear you haven’t let it stop you.

It was a privilege to have had such a wonderful human being as a teacher. You valued each and every student as individuals, genuinely cared about us and what we were learning. Nearly thirty years on, I still remember how you read stories to the class and didn’t underestimate our ability to understand the themes. How you played “Clouds”–Both Sides Now–by Anne Murray. I remember learning about technology in the computer lab with the Apple ][ and when you took the class on a field trip where we learned about computer programming at a real university! You made the experience magical to a nine year old child who never forgot your kindness, passion for teaching, and your patience.

I just wanted to say thank you.

  1. Catherine says:

    My dear Elaine. This is truly a wonderful, and well-deserved, complement to not only your skills as a teacher but also your compassion and caring for others. What a wonderful testimonial! It is not often that we hear how our lives have impacted others along the way. Treasure this and keep it close to your heart! (Your very big heart!)

  2. Beautiful letter of appreciation for a beautiful person! 3rd and 4th grade I was with the nuns (eek, talk about a bad fit) but in 5th grade public school I had a teacher who read to us every day– I remember her like Mikki remembers you. People like that make a huge difference in the lives of the shy and anxious. It’s wonderful Mikki found you to tell you.

  3. Tamsyn Angelini nèe Pitceathly says:

    I was also in your 3rd and 4th grade classes, Mrs. Willis. Mikki and talk about our wonderful memories of you in those formative years. I still recall making Ukranian Easter eggs, creating models of Native villages, making Native blankets, making bannock, and of course listening to “Clouds”, which I find myself humming/singing absently from time to time. You helped us to understand how exciting learning could be and as a result, many of your students continued to expand our minds beyond your classroom. Thank you for the wonderful memories!

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