I was the new kid in sixth grade. Again. Funny glasses. Funny name. Some misguided kids who felt the need to write notes to tell me I wasn’t welcome at Paramount Park Elementary. But the yuckiness only lasted about a week because that’s how long it took our teacher, Mr. Craig, to cast his spell. It was his first year of teaching and he gave us his all. By the time the year ended, I know I felt like I was capable of doing anything. Because that’s how Mr. Craig treated us. Put together a mock television newscast, complete with commercials? Done. Master math facts? Bring it on. Open our hearts and minds to the world around us? You bet.

In my move-around life (kind of like Hattie Here and There in Hattie Big Sky), I didn’t have many teachers who made a Difference. But Mr. Craig did. He showed up to many of our high school graduations (not mine — I’d moved too far away) and our weddings and, in my case, book signings and last year he got in contact with many of us to begin planning a sixth grade reunion.

Which was held this past Sunday. And it was amazing. (I will post photos as soon as I get them — I promise.) Shortly before we were all to leave, Mr. Craig confessed something. He said college had prepared  him to teach but not to say good-bye to “his” kids at the end of the year. “You guys were raring to go,” he said. “But it killed me that you were moving on.” After 40+ years, he was still choked up at the memory.

True confession, Mr. Craig: We never moved on. We carried you with us, all these years. Through our ups and downs, in our hearts and actions.

Because good teachers like you become part of our DNA. And we are so grateful for that.