“Why do you want to become a teacher?” asked a colleague when I informed her that I would be taking courses to obtain my teaching certificate. As I sat at my desk and stared out the window of the 48th floor of the palatial Williams Tower in the Galleria, I began to reflect upon my earlier years. My days as a child of eight sitting in front of my chalkboard with my stuffed animals listening intently as I read them a book or when I would record their grades in my grade book; but then I remembered the one person who influenced me to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher…my high school counselor, AKA my coach, cheerleader, surrogate mom, and my angel sent from God…. Mrs. Simmons.
I met Mrs. Simmons my freshman year of high school because of a schedule change I needed. As if the freshmen year was not difficult enough, I struggled with my father’s alcoholism, my mother’s renewed spirit of reliving her teenage years by partying until the wee hours of the morning, and coping with my parents divorce from the previous year. When I first encountered Mrs. Simmons, I immediately made a connection with her. As months progressed, our relationship grew. The sparkle in her eyes and warmth in her voice allowed me to open up to her and inform her of the hellish black hole that I referred to as life. She knew of my mother’s determination to win monthly contests with her friend to see how many different men she could date in one month, as well as the numerous times I woke my dad when I found him passed out on the floor. The one incident however that strengthened our relationship was the after-the-dance incident.
“Mrs. Simmons”, I sobbed. “I really need to talk. You see, my dad was supposed to pick up my friend and I from the school dance at 10:30 on Friday, but he didn’t show up until 11:30. And when he did,” I sniffled, “he had either been drinking or he was sleepy because his words slurred.”
At that point, my eyes went from having minor leaks to a dam being opened. I put my hands to my face as tears continued to flood my face. I felt her arms around me comforting me, and a tissue placed in my hands. Without saying a word she continued to hold me as I sobbed—her comforting ways indicated that she understood the embarrassment of my father arriving late, and then the frightened notion of my father being drunk and driving us to our destination.
“Kathryn, sweetheart. I understand what you are going through. You see, my father was an alcoholic too.” Amazed at this personal aspect of her life that she revealed to me, I pulled away from her, looked into her tear-stricken eyes and asked, “Really?” “Yes”, she replied.
Throughout my high school years, I continued to visit Mrs. Simmons regularly about not only the difficult times I experienced at home, but also the time I made first chair in the school orchestra, and when I secured a place on the school drill team. Through it all, she encouraged me to stay focused on academics, even though my partying mom did not understand the importance of education since she never completed high school. Mrs. Simmons encouraged me to continue my studies, and pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.
“Kathryn?” my colleague asked as I was jerked back from my little walk through history. “So what is it that makes you want to teach and leave all of this?”
I looked at her and smiled, “It is because I want to make a difference in the lives of teens just as a particular person did for me”.
“Well, it sounds like he or she was a remarkable person”.
“Yes, she was” I replied, and still is even after all these years.