Gratitude for My Geometry Teacher

A co-worker told me recently about a teacher who inspired him. He had visited his teacher once years later, and the teacher pulled one of his essays from a file and gave it to him. My friend was shocked and flattered that his teacher had kept his work for all those years. We spoke of sending our past teachers thank you notes and apologies.

I said, “I did that once. I’m sure I owe a few more teachers.”

My high school geometry teacher was elderly and kind. In retrospect, she was probably ten to fifteen years older than I am at present.

Back in my high school days, I took my socializing seriously for an introvert. I maximized my time in the hallway between classes, chatting with friends making eyes (or something like that) with my boyfriend. I would arrive at the classroom threshold as the bell rang. Mrs. Lee always stood there waiting with a patient smile. If I remember correctly, I asked her if I could go to the restroom almost daily as I arrived almost late. She always let me go. At some point in the school year, she just started taking my books for me, never with an ounce of exasperation. When I returned to class, my books waited for me on my desk.

When Mrs. Lee’s husband passed (He was my elementary school counselor who administered standardized testing and told us to bubble our answers “dark and glossy”), I searched for Mrs. Lee’s address. I found it and mailed my condolences, along with an apology from my former self and a note of appreciation from my adult-teacher self. Now I’m the one who allows restroom breaks when they might not be convenient and even when the students try my patience. I told her that, and you know what? She wrote me back, the kindest note in keeping with my memories of her.

In my twenty-first year of teaching, I still remind myself that kids are kids. We learn character, by witnessing character. I did anyway. Although I made A’s in my geometry class that year, I’ll remember what Mrs. Lee taught me about patience and kindness above all. And I’m grateful.

Do you have a Mrs. Lee? Someone who made a difference that might not even know?

45 thoughts on “Gratitude for My Geometry Teacher

  1. She sounds like my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Wells, a WWII widow whose daughter’s husband was fighting in the Korean War and worked as a substitute teacher. Mrs. Wells instilled in me a deep love of my country and its history, combining art and geography with history from the Pilgrims through the Colonial Era, Western expansions and the War Between the States (NEVER “civil war”!) . . .

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  2. I grew up in a household that taught kids should be seen and not heard. My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Robertson, encouraged us to SPEAK. Each week each of us stood in front of the class and spoke on whatever we wanted to speak about. Talk about a huge boost in confidence by the end of the semester! Thanks, Mr. Robertson!
    p.s. Maybe he was my fifth grade teacher. Isn’t it terrible that I don’t remember?

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  3. What a lovely post, Crystal. I don’t have any particular teachers in mind, but I do have a few mentors from my working days who had similar positive impacts on my self-confidence. I think being treated well by others really does rub off on us. A good reminder.

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  4. Hello Crystal, My favorite teacher is Leo Buscaglia. He wrote some best selling books and you can watch his lectures on you tube. If you don’t know of him, please check him out. You will be so glad you did. Have a great day. Jerry

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  5. A great story Crystal. Many of my teachers seemed to be “cranky pants”. One teacher I will remember is Mr. Peters from Grade 11 & 12. We were in a small town, so Mr. Peters taught Math, Social, Physics and Chemistry (I was one of only two students in Chemistry). No matter what was going on, Mr. Peters always had the time and patience to explain things again. He was also the only teacher that asked to sign my Grade 12 yearbook. I still recall what he signed 50 years ago….”Allan, I won’t wish you good luck, because you make your own good luck”. Good teachers can be hard to come by, but Mr. Peters was one in the most unlikely of places. Happy Tuesday Crystal. Allan

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    1. Aww! Well, in his defense, not everyone checks their Facebook. I loved my 6th grade home room teacher, too. Mr. Tuttle. We happen to be Facebook friends. He was a military guy and spent time in Germany. He taught me some of the little German I know.

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  6. I have one! Ms Roos, she couldn’t have been any more than 4ft 9 in. tall. She was my 3rd grade teacher, she was the kindest person… There was never any kind of acting out by any of the kids and if I remember right there were close to 30 kids!! If they could mint teachers she would be the one I would suggest for every child to have.

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  7. Thank you for this post. It encouraged me to take some moments and remember, in gratitude, all the teachers and various individuals who made an impact. It’s surprising how well I remember them and how few belong in the group. A debt to be paid forward.

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  8. What a warm hug of a story, Crystal! Just what’s needed in late autumn.

    Someone else mentioned you’re continuing the cycle – the kindness – and I agree. Don’t be surprised if someday you yourself get several letters (or more) similar to the one you sent Mrs. Lee. What a magnificent inspiration, both Mrs. Lee’s, and yours.

    Your story reminds me of Mr. Mohr, an Economics teacher I had in 10th grade. Despite being “only” (quote-unquote) a public school teacher, he was (or still is, I hope) refinement itself. He dressed impeccably, including a flower in his lapel every day. He was soft-spoken, yet he riveted his charges. Witty and eloquent, yet thoroughly without verbosity or bluster. Get that, Keith?

    I wouldn’t see his like again, and even then only rarely, until university a few years later. Maybe a grad-level prof or two came close, but none matched the original. Mr. Mohr was the first to treat us as adults, and to encourage refinement and a genuine erudition. A whole new concept for most 15-year-olds.

    Thanks for encouraging wonderful memories, Crystal!

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  9. I enjoy reading sweet posts like this one. You had a wonderful, empathetic, teacher with Mrs. Lee. I had an English teacher in high school who I credit with teaching me how to write. It’s simple, be specific. I still think she said it better than any prof in my college classes about how-to write.

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  10. My teacher was Mr. Tarrant. I had him for US History in my 8th and 9th grade years. He always made things better by putting in humor and let us choose topics we wanted to research. I have not seen him in years. He made me love Social Studies and is partially the reason I became a US History, World History and World Geography teacher. He is married to Richard Zastoupil’s sister. Crazy how the world works.

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  11. Aw Crystal, this was such a beautiful dedication to Mrs. Lee. I love that you can trace your aptitude for patience back to your time in Mrs. Lee’s class, that’s so special. Hearing that you were able to reach out to her to tell her she was special and that you never forgot her kindness was sweet to hear. I never truly got to tell my “Mrs. Lee” those words so it makes me happy to know that you were able to. 🙂

    I love that it also influences how you teach your own students. ❤️

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  12. Crystal, this post touches the heart of another grateful student. So many beloved teachers come to mind as I think of endless and patient dedication to their craft. Mr. Hink, my sixth grade teacher, encouraged me in ways which brought out more of my Qhidden qualities. He really helped to prepare me to be even more successful as I headed into junior high the following year. After teaching for 40 years, I can see more clearly how this circle of service remains unbroken.

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  13. Nice tribute to Mrs. Lee. You’re right- so kind and patient, but also smart as a whip. I had her for Math Analysis which I think was a Pre-Trig class. I had a tough go of it at first and she never hesitated to help me after class or answer my numerous questions. You made me think of some of my other favorites- Coach Cooper, Mrs. Bowman. Mrs. Hardy. And yes, “Dark and Glossy,” I remember that too!

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    1. Hi Darren! Always happy to see you popping up here. You have me thinking of others and especially my extra curricular teachers—Ms. Hinchey (yearbook), Mr. Patterson (speech, even though my debating was sad, he taught me enunciation), Ms. Whitely (cheer and lots of miles on the road in a Suburban together). And my sixth grade teacher Mr. Tuttle who inspired some extra creativity. 🤍

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