Sometimes they never see them again, and are left to wonder if they made a difference. This is the life of a teacher.
The daily affirmations, bits of encouragement, and support offered to students each school day by members of our staff are the norm. What’s rare is being able to see the impact of their work many years later; to see the seeds planted years ago in full bloom.
Cindy Morris had one of those rare days on Wednesday.
Far beyond the reading, writing and arithmetic, school is an indispensable part of growing up; it’s the one place every student knows they can find a listening ear, or a sturdy shoulder. School is about stability, routine and, for many, a much-needed respite from challenging times at home.
School is where Stone Rude found Cindy Morris, his 5th grade teacher at Mayfield Elementary, back in 2016. On Wednesday, he found her again, all these years later — in a different school, with different students, but the same open arms.
This time, Stone had flowers; and, more importantly, a story to tell about his life and her role in it.
As fate would have it, Kellie Orwig (pictured below), who was with Cindy as a paraprofessional at Mayfield in Stone’s 5th grade class, was also there — and also crying.
It was that kind of moment.
‘It started with a conversation’
Stone, now a junior at Lapeer Community High School, recently had a conversation with his teacher, Shelly Boyce, about teachers, and specifically those who make an impact far beyond what goes in the backpack.
Shelly was taken by what Stone had to say.
“It was so touching,” she said. “And it all started with a conversation.”
After all these years, and because of one conversation, Stone decided he wanted to share with Ms. Morris the impact she made on his life at a young age. In a letter to his old teacher, he wrote about a dark time in his life and how Ms. Morris was there to reassure him that his life mattered. His mother, who ultimately passed away in February 2019, was in the midst of treatment for stage four cancer.
I could not focus on school or anything else as a matter of fact. You were there to support me and my family. You made me feel special and that I was important to you. You took time out of your own life and day to make time for us. You even brought us a turkey and gave us presents when my mom was struggling to do so. You made life a little easier to deal with.
It is people like you that do make a difference. Even the small things, really aren’t that small. I could never thank you enough for caring about me. Out of all of your students, you helped and cared about me. I will never forget your kindness and gratitude. I will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life and know that good people do exist.Stone Rude
Stone went on to share with Ms. Morris that he’s had his share of struggles since leaving her class, in school and outside of school. He had a hard time staying focused during the Pandemic, and like so many students, got off track.
Fortunately, he found his way to the District’s Community High School program and is now passing all of his classes. Stone is confident he will take his progress all the way to graduation.
Stone has been attending classes at Ed Tech, learning about small engine repair. By the end of the year, he will earn his OHV certification and will be able to work as a mechanic after graduation.
And while he has renewed his focus on his future, he made sure to take some time to recognize someone from his past who changed the course of his life.
You made a difference and do need to know what impact you have had on my life. I will never forget the care and support you gave me and my family during a tragic time. Your students are blessed to have you as a teacher! You make a difference!Stone Rude
So here’s to Cindy Morris and everyone who heeds the call to this noble profession; Here’s to Kellie Orwig and all the parapros who make our classrooms safe and supported; Here’s to Shelly Boyce, who started the conversation, and had the intuition to understand how moments like these can have a far-reaching impact for both student and teacher.
And finally, here’s to Stone Rude for inspiring all of us with his commitment to his studies and his willingness to share with us how his life was impacted by a teacher. You make us all proud, young man!