Ms. Brakel

By
I can clearly remember my first day of freshman year, when my entire school of six hundred students crowded into a small gym to hear welcoming speeches. First were the teacher introductions, which I listened to intently, unaware that the upperclassmen had a tradition of cheering, clapping, and stomping for their favorite teachers.

The first people our vice principal introduced were my math, science, and engineering teachers, who were all met with vigorous applause and enthusiastic shouts. Before my vice principal called the next teacher in line, she paused, and a quick hush ran through the audience. Suddenly, with dynamic energy, she proclaimed, “This is Ms. Brakel, the freshman English teacher!” Everyone went wild, and I was nearly deafened by the cheers. All upperclassmen stood up to clap, honoring her with the first standing ovation I ever saw. I was impressed, but little did I know then that this teacher would forever alter the path of my life.

As a young child, I had a proclivity for writing. Elementary and middle school were difficult for me because I was often taunted, so writing was my only catharsis. I often wrote of beautiful, enchanted worlds in which all of my characters led ideal lives. My parents noticed my love for writing, but insisted that I concentrated on my studies. To them, writing stories just squandered time, which could be better spent learning anatomy or chemistry. This crushed me, because I felt that when they disapproved of my writing they were also rejecting an integral part of me.

Life brightened for me in the ninth grade, when I met Ms. Brakel. She was a tall woman, with a kind smile and gentle laugh. I was awed by her literary acuity and devotion to her pupils. She encouraged me to continue writing my stories because she saw how precious they were to me. Ms. Brakel read nearly everything I wrote and made meticulous corrections. I was grateful because she was the first person to truly acknowledge the weight of my words and thoughts. In her, I found a treasure that many people search for their entire lives: complete acceptance.

Ms. Brakel’s magnanimity always seemed interminable to me. She offered her classroom to all students on rainy days and sponsored our school’s H.E.A.R. club, which promoted environmental awareness. She also organized many hikes and camping trips to expose us to the beauty of nature.

A while ago, I remember pondering what makes a person great. It started from a conversation I had with my friend, when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Until that moment, we had been laughing, but my question seemed to sober her. She looked into the distance and said, “No matter what I become, I know it has to be something great.” But what determined greatness? Was it opulence? Fame? I didn’t know then, but I think I do now. Greatness can be defined by only one thing: the number of lives that a person shapes for the better in his or her lifetime. Nothing else has as lasting an impact as this, for wealth dwindles and fame wanes. By this definition, I can confidently say that Ms. Brakel’s legacy is indeed great. She has touched more lives at my high school than I could ever dream of. She is my north star, and the epitome of altruism.





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EdytD said...
Oct. 17, 2009 at 7:52 pm
Fabulously written; your love and respect for your teacher is evident. Great job!
 
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