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Mr. Student Teacher
The proudest moment of my life happened in the sixth grade.
At that time, we were still under one teacher with one class of thirty kids. Sometimes we’d have student teachers, usually young, pretty female undergraduates seeking a degree in education. Sometimes they were nice, sometimes they were mean, but to be honest, none ever stood out as sparkling.
The last student teacher we had of the year was in an interesting position. A stark contrast to previous student teachers, at forty years old, and claimed to the confines of a wheelchair, he looked about as capable of teaching as we students did. When he was eighteen, with fully functioning legs, he jumped off a diving board and landed the wrong way, permanently paralyzing him from the waist down. He told his story with such blithe nonchalance that is seemed almost careless, like his oratory had been cemented into stone, like he gained a new wrinkle each time he told his sad story.
We honestly treated him like any other teacher. Perhaps we were more polite, on account of his slight immobility, and I think we saw him more as a partner to my teacher, on account of their mutual age, respecting both as having years of wise, invaluable experience.
Because he was a student teacher, he was more active with the students in my class, often wheeling over to help us on assignments or to tell jokes or to even just chat about our day. I took a particular liking to him. To be honest, the only reason I liked him was because he gave me attention. As a student, I was witty and bright but quiet and very, very lazy, and teachers often didn't spot my earnest curiosity in aspects of the curriculum. I saw him as a great figure of infinite wisdom who paid me a special kind of attention.
It’s hard to believe that he became our favorite student teacher, but he did. He really was. After a few weeks of teaching us, his time was up, and he started talking about leaving. We were all devastated, and we even wrote him a goodbye card.
I don’t remember the exact situation surrounding this event, but I remember being alone in the classroom with him, helping him clean, simply chatting about my life and goals. Once I was finished cleaning, we left the classroom to meet up with the other kids who were presumably in the auditorium. I offered to push him, but he kindly declined.
I remember walking under the gloomy mustard lighting of an infinite hallway, grand in size to my eleven year old gaze. I was walking by his wheeling, and there was a lull in the conversation. He picked up the moment to say something I’ve never forgotten.
“You know, you are the brightest student in class. No, really! You’re loud with your friends, sure, but in discussions, you’re quiet, and I don’t think teachers notice how much you really think. You’re curious and daring and very, very smart. You are definitely my favorite student in the class, and I really wish I had more time to spend with you and really watch how you grow as a person.”
I wasn’t stunned. I mean, if someone said that to me nowadays, I would be blushing hotly, jerking my neck like our masses were opposing magnets, giggling and stupidly thanking him. But at that point, at my young age, I didn’t comprehend the gravity and sincerity with which he expressed himself with. I told him he was my favorite student teacher, and that was that; I never saw him again.
I wish I could at least remember his name.