To the teaching staff of Farrington Grove Elementary School, Oubache Elementary School, Sarah Scott Middle School, Terre Haute South Vigo High School, Carson-Newman College, and Baylor University:
On my last kindergarten report card, one of you wrote, "Bethany has made real progress. She no longer cries every day." You had spent plenty of time coaxing me out from under the table after another child had hurt my feelings, or the fire drill had frightened me, or I didn't get the color of crayon I wanted. I wonder, though, if you knew that I also cried at home -- every Saturday morning, in fact. I was terrified of you, and of my classmates, but I cried every week on the day that I didn't get to go to school. I loved the morning walks from South 9th Street to Farrington Grove, loved the room full of blocks and crayons, loved the order and structure of the mornings I spent there. By second grade, I had decided that my first daughter would be named "Elementary," because school was my favorite place to be.
As teachers, you kindled and sustained the fires that have fueled twenty-three consecutive years of formal education. You bestowed knowledge that inspired wonder (geometry, European history, Latin conjugations); skills that enriched my work and play (cursive writing, typing, swimming strokes, sentence diagramming); questions that continue to guide me (what is justice? how do beauty and truth depend on one another? how does reading shape action? how does writing direct thinking?).
Thank you for guiding me so faithfully through my timid childhood, eccentric adolescence, exuberant undergraduate days, and intensive years of graduate study. Thank you for demanding that I speak up, for insisting I audition for that musical, for urging me to keep writing. In your classrooms, I found a home, and I can only pray that among my own students I practice such gentle and joyful hospitality.
Tomorrow I graduate as a "Doctor of Philosophy," and I wish they would translate the title from its Greek and Latin origins: "One who leads others into the love of wisdom." If I am any good as a guide, it is because I have been following all of you for years.
Ever your student,