Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Open Letter to Mr. Jeffrey Wheaton

(If you read through all the way to the end, you'll be rewarded with an awesome picture of me as an awkward kid.)

Dear Mr Wheaton,

I wish I knew how to contact you and tell you all this in person.  Oh, well.  Here it is anyway.

I just wanted to tell you what an impression you made on both my husband and I.  You were one of my favorite teachers.  It was amazing teachers like you and Mrs. Bhatti that inspired me to become a teacher myself.

My husband knew you first when he was in your fifth grade class at a private school.  He didn't have many friends and was bullied a lot.  He felt like all the adults at school didn't trust him and sided with the bullies.  You were the sole exception. 

He also wasn't very close to his father.  When he shaved for the first time, naturally he wanted to share the excitement of this milestone with an important man who would show pride in him.  That man was you.

Four years later, I was in your sixth grade class at a public school a couple towns over.  I was really awkward, not comfortable with my body type, didn't have trendy clothes, and had some pretty low self-esteem.  I over-compensated by dressing and acting really weird.  You embraced my weirdness and dubbed me, "Queen of Strange."  I remember you joking one day that I wore a tie to school more often than you did.  You made me feel like it was ok and even cool to be weird, strange, or different.

You were the one who introduced me to the Princess Bride.  You decided to show it to us on a party day (probably the last day of school) and I remember you excitedly telling me your plans saying that you had this really silly movie that you knew I would just love!

You weren't just an awesome person, but also an awesome teacher.  We learned a lot but also had fun doing it.  During our study of Ancient Egypt, you brought in a video of Steve Martin singing about King Tut on SNL.  It was very educational, I'm sure.

One of my most painful memories from elementary school was in sixth grade when I was cut from Readers Theatre.  (As background for posterity and any blog readers that care: everyone's required dress for our Readers Theatre performances was black bottoms and a black turtleneck.  The form did not specify that it had to be pants.  The morning of our first performance in front of the school, I showed up wearing a skirt.  The parent volunteer in charge of it screamed at me and treated me like an idiot and said I could not go on stage with a skirt.  Then she gave my part to her daughter and her daughter's friend.  The way I remember it, having my mom bring me pants was not given as an option.  Even if it was an option, I was too worked up emotionally to go on stage.  I was not allowed-or too embarrassed/traumatized-to participate in any of the other performances either.)  You were incredibly understanding and compassionate through the whole ordeal.  When it was our class' turn to go down to the auditorium to watch the performance, you recognized how hard it would have been for me.  You suggested I spend that time helping out in the kindergarten classroom-a place I was often allowed to volunteer in.

You were such a great teacher that our sixth grade class planned a baby shower for you!  It started with me and my friends (Sarah, David, Honey, Allison, Leslie, Beth) wanting to do something really nice for you.  We found out when your anniversary was and that your wife was pregnant.  After talking about it for a while, we decided to include the whole class.  How many teachers get thrown a baby shower during school by their students? 

Thank you for being such a positive influence in my life and in the life of my husband.  I hope you understand how much you were appreciated.  I hope that you and your family are doing well.

Shirley, Queen of Strange

P.S. I was sorely tempted to include your picture from the yearbook to show your awesome mullet.  You're welcome.  Instead I'll include one myself from 6th grade.  Here I am in the Kindergarten class with my little sister.  Note the bad side bangs, pioneer dress, turquoise Croakie on the glasses, and Cat's Cradle elastic worn as a bracelet.  Stylin'

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