There’s not enough money to say thank you

Published 10:35 am Monday, June 6, 2016

“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

During the recent inaugural Senior of the Month Banquet, in which a select group of Isle of Wight high school seniors had the privilege of honoring inspirational teachers, I found myself getting misty-eyed at times. That was initially odd for me since I have no personal ties to either Windsor or Smithfield high schools. Soon I realized the emotion came because of what emanated from the students: loving gratitude to the teachers who truly have made an impact in their academic and personal lives.

Nor was I the only person in the room who was feeling the love. As they voiced their tributes, several students choked up at times. Those weren’t awkward pauses, but truly poignant moments. Naturally, many of the honorees were also overcome. Tissues were made readily available.

The ceremony brought to mind the memory of my first-grade teacher at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona during the late 1960s. To this day, though, I cannot recall her name, and can just barely remember her face — though it’s always pretty, even if the details are lost. What stands out is what was most important then and now: that she was a teacher who inspired her students to love learning. Going to school never felt like a prison sentence. The few times that she might had to discipline me for something don’t burn as shameful memories, but as puzzles not really worth solving.

Once, my parents sent me to school with a bouquet of roses for her. I’ve not pursued the reason, and even resisted calling my mother for her recollection. Instead, I prefer to remember that teacher hugged and kissed me in gratitude and I was thrilled!

To write and read those words brings a bit of sting to me even now, but there’s no pain.

Eventually, my family moved back to my home state of Idaho, and within a few years I forgot about her and even some of the other teachers who were also guiding lights in the respective ways.

But it’s occasions such as the banquet late last month that stir such reminiscences, and I’m grateful.

So, too, will those seniors eventually think back to how their own teachers pushed them to think for themselves, to act for themselves and to help them become successful women and men.

No, there’s never enough money to repay what a great educator can do for his or her students, but it’s programs such as the banquet that can serve as tokens of heartfelt thanks. That the payment comes from the students makes it priceless.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the managing editor of Windsor Weekly. He also gives a shout-out to English teacher Mrs. Evelyn Dawkins, formerly of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Virginia. Contact him at or 562-3187.