Graduation season is underway across the United States. Tears are shed, tassels are switched, and caps are thrown. Having graduated college myself a few days ago, I was prompted to reflect upon some of the most important people in my life – teachers. In particular, I chose to write a letter to one Mr. Cedric Magee, my sixth grade teacher, friend and role model.
Dear Mr. Magee,
I wanted to send you a personalized graduation invitation just to let you know how much you have meant to me over the years. I’ll try to do so without taking up too much of your time.
Due to a clerical error in the days before I was to start the 6th grade, I was not assigned a class. Luckily, my mother and I had come to the school the Friday before classes began (as was our custom back then) and we had met a few of the teachers, including you. I had never had a male teacher before, so the choice was an easy one to make. Little did I know, it would turn out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I got much more than a male teacher when I joined your class. I got a friend, a mentor, an ally, and a role model. In a society that didn’t resemble what my parents and spiritual leaders were steering me to become, I finally was able to see an example in action. From watching and closely following your lead, I began to realize that being a righteous gentleman was not only possible despite what others around me did, but it could be “cool,” too (and that’s a very important lesson for a young man to learn). I found that there is an appeal to be gained by being a respectful and respectable male (and an African-American male, at that) that is completely unmatched. Furthermore, I was able to see how much time, hope, and influence you invested in me and in my success (including a College Algebra book that you began to work through with me a bit as I prepared for the ACT that year; I wish I had used it more).
Now that you are a principal, I know that your job may seem quite thankless as the young people, parents, and educators you seek to empower may not always realize the value of your work. For that reason, I’d like you to know that I appreciate who you are. Your integrity, your dignity, your hard work, and your unwavering consistency over the years are very valuable and rare personality traits which I strive to emulate every day. More importantly, I’d like to thank you for being my blueprint and to apologize for failing to tell you these things more often over the years. Most importantly, however, I hope this message provides some encouragement to continue to do what you’ve always done. I guarantee you that someone is watching you, patterning himself or herself after you, and will be able to reach great success in large part due to your influence and example. Thank you for adding value to my story.
Teachers really have an important, draining , and often, thankless job. If you’re graduating this spring or even if it’s been years since you’ve walked across the stage, take some time to let the exceptional ones know what they’ve meant to you.
May 23, 2012