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Jennifer Skowron: English • Lancaster Middle School This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

“You don't belong in first grade,” I remember my teacher telling me. After that remark, my self-esteem plummeted, and a year later, I transferred school districts. I went from receiving a poor education to a better one, but my teachers were still skeptical. “Don't expect anything higher than a C,” they told my parents. “There will come a point when she won't be able to go any further.”

I distinctly remember having to go through a series of tests to determine whether or not I had a learning disability. It turned out there was no disability. Clearly I was struggling, yet not one teacher took the time to help me. Gradually, I stopped engaging in class. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of knowledge. The other students seemed to absorb information like sponges, whereas I was left feeling mute and stupid.

Because I was not getting the support I needed, I learned to hold my own hand. It seemed like all my teachers kept doing was putting labels on me. The more I tried, the more defeated I became. Even so, I never gave up. This continued until the day I entered Lancaster Middle School. It wasn't until eighth grade, when I had Mrs. Skowron as an English teacher, that I knew what a genuine educator was. She helped me find my voice. Over time, I began to engage in school again.

Mrs. Skowron was the first teacher to instill confidence in me. Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

While everyone was busy tearing me down because I didn't conform to their definition of success, Mrs. Skowron rehabilitated my hope. She helped me realize my talent and harness my passion for writing. Because of her, I was no longer silenced by the oppressive weight of not feeling smart enough. Instead, Mrs. Skowron helped me create my own definition of intelligence. She not only helped me become a writer – but she was also an important part of my healing. I no longer cared what my former teachers believed; I began to believe in myself.

Not only is Mrs. Skowron a phenomenal teacher, but she's also an amazing person and an inspiration to every student who enters her classroom. “I didn't always love reading,” she said. “When I was younger, I struggled. I used to dread reading out loud.” She told me how she almost failed ninth-grade ­English. It wasn't until she met a special teacher, too, that she found her love for reading. Now here she is getting kids not only to read but be excited about it! She has the ability not just to teach, but to create relationships with her students.

I was surprised every time I stepped into her classroom because Mrs. Skowron's teaching style is unique. My favorite memory is when Mrs. Skowron had us re-enact The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember sitting under our desks pretending to be Anne. We had to stay totally quiet the way Anne and her family had to during the Holocaust. Mrs. Skowron would then tap our desks and make loud sounds, acting as if she was a Nazi. If anyone made a sound, she would take us to the corner of the room. There, we had to pretend we were the Jews sent off to a concentration camp. As the students sat under their desks, they had to write in their journals about how they were feeling.

Mrs. Skowron's creativity is what keeps students on their toes and engaged in class. Her passion for teaching encourages us all to do better. She was the one who got me not only into reading, but also inspired my love for writing. “I really enjoyed having you in class! I hope to buy a book with your name on the cover!” Mrs. Skowron wrote in my yearbook. Ever since her class, I've taken baby steps in my writing. Over the past few years, writing has become more than just a hobby. It is part of my identity.

Some educators fail to realize the power they hold and the effect their words have. Because of the faith Mrs. Skowron had in me, an essay I wrote is now published in a book; I couldn't have done it without her support. Thank you so much, Mrs. Skowron. You have made a huge difference in my life, and I will never be able to thank you enough for believing in me!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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