“I tested high in standardized tests as a kid, and a lot of teachers expected a lot out of me. I finished my work quickly, got bored, and then started disrupting the class. The teachers were then frustrated with me and would treat me terribly or just separate me from my classmates. In first grade, I sat in the corner of the room, facing the wall, surrounded by those huge flip charts so I could not see any other kids. It sucked.
I was also a military kid so by the time fifth grade rolled around, I was at my fourth school. My fifth-grade teacher was the first to actually care why I was acting out and not simply just punish me for it. Her husband was a fighter pilot who flew the F-15, and she knew I loved airplanes.
So she incorporated fun stuff like going to visit him and sit in the plane as rewards for staying on task. I would get to sit in on briefings and watch flight footage with the squadron. She would let me work ahead of the others and then use what I learned to help the other kids in class. This gave me a sense of purpose, and something to look forward to. I got to go do things outside of class when I was done with work. I would go help the office staff, the janitors, the lunch staff, etc. I would join the sixth-grade classes for reading and math so I could stay challenged. In short, she was the first one to actually care whether I succeeded or not. Up until then, the teachers wanted me to make them look good. She wanted me to do good.
I credit a lot of where I am at in life now to her. She was instrumental in turning things around for me. I sure wish I knew how to reach out to her to thank her but as is life in the military, we all move on.”