In every moment of fear, an element of stillness is present. It anchors you to reality and steadies you each time you find yourself falling.
I was five when a teacher first hit me. The mark that was left reminded me of a jellyfish swimming under my skin. My only response was to cry and cry and cry. The fat, helpless tears of a child failed to cool the searing sensation in my heart, a feeling caused by the disappointment in myself, something I felt for the first time. I blubbered apologies and tried to forget about it.
Yes. Okay. I’m sorry. I’ll get it right.
I saw that jellyfish again – almost every lesson, actually. The wound inside of me did not fade along with the pink marks on my arms and legs, but grew into a horrid distrust of my teachers. Every lesson forced me to face the insignificant amount of worth I felt was mine, and I hated it. I began to refuse eye-contact, avoided asking questions in class, and despised making simple conversation with my teachers.
I know. I know! I’m sorry.
If I felt myself shaken before, I faced earthquakes my sophomore year. I lost people dear to me, one after another, to death. For the first time, when I scrambled for stability I could not find it. I had felt pain but not of that magnitude, and I didn’t know how to steady myself.
That’s when I met Ms. Flowers.
I walked into Accelerated Geometry nervously because I had been told by older students that it was one of the most frustrating classes at our school. This meant, of course, I would have to get help from my teacher. I quickly decided that Ms. Flowers was okay, but planned to keep my distance, like I was used to.
Fortunately for me, that was impossible.
In her class, I laughed so hard my face hurt. Ms. Flowers is hilarious and completely relatable – she uses Spider-Man, football, Six-Flags, and the Simpsons to teach, allowing us to build our own dialect of math. When we’re tired in class, she “accidentally” puts up funny pictures of her pets, just to make us smile. It’s difficult material, and she knows it – but Ms. Flowers believes we can do it.
I got it right! Hey, I did it! I actually did it!
I am not the only one who feels like this. I remember an incident in another class where a boy mocking the math teachers at our school was stopped cold by another (usually taciturn) kid, who shook his head.
“Nah, man. Ms. Flowers is cool.” He paused. “She really cares about us, you know?”
We aren’t blind to the ways she helps us, whether it’s the content, our grades, or our daily struggles. We come to Ms. Flowers for advice on everything, and we feel completely safe with her. Stories of parties, fights, and difficult decisions all come tumbling out, and she tells us what she thinks without any sugar-coating or baby-talk. She’s a hero to others as well – Ms. Flowers rescued clubs struggling for sponsors, causing membership to skyrocket and creating new communities. She supports performances and events around the community, and is known to show up at IHOP at 3 a.m. just to give unsuspecting servers a tip as large as the bill.
When my best friend passed away, I found out right before her class. Tears blurred my vision as I flew to her. Ms. Flowers steadied me, hugged me, then rearranged all my tests and quizzes in the next three weeks to help me heal without getting behind in my schoolwork. Every day, she would smile and ask if I was okay. She was the one who kept me going in school through the many days that hurt.
I feel better today, thank you.
Our curriculum included learning how to smile at those who hurt us, to reach out to those in pain and to laugh every day. We had a perfect example of hard work right in front of us – it was Ms. Flowers, after all, who taught class brilliantly, no matter how tired she was from spending hours the night before figuring out plans and tactics to help make us understand what we were doing.
After meeting her, I threw my entire self into my schoolwork, and have decided to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor again. She taught me that I am capable of great things, no matter what others have told me or how they have hurt me.
Hi, Ms. Flowers! It’s great to see you.
I realize that to everyone else this plea might seem silly, even trivial. What she has done for me might seem insignificant. But for me, Ms. Flowers changed everything. That’s why I believe this teacher deserves to be recognized, for healing the scars in me, reviving a love of learning in her students, and teaching us to lead good lives. Parkview High School is blessed to have her, and I can only imagine how many more lives she will change.
The person who provided the stillness, who held me to reality, and who was there when I needed inspiration was Ms. Flowers. I no longer hold on to the damage done so many years ago because she made me realize I can do what I want in life.
I nominate Ms. Krista Flowers for Teen Ink’s Educator of the Year. You won’t find another more perfect for the title.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.