61: I Wish Every Teacher a Kevonna

61: I Wish Every Teacher a Kevonna

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

I Wish Every Teacher a Kevonna

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

~Kahlil Gibran

“Why do you want to be a teacher?” I never could explain it without the usual obvious reasons, such as my love of children or wanting to make a difference. It was not until I met Kevonna that I truly knew the reason I wanted to be a teacher.

I was running an after-school/summer program. A young girl just finishing seventh grade walked through the doors and I thought to myself, “This is going to be a long summer.” She was a student at my school and I was well aware of who she was even though I was an eighth grade teacher. Her reserved place in the principal’s office was well known by the eighth grade teachers as we prepared ourselves for those students who were going to need extra attention.

I racked my brain trying to figure out what I was going to do with her all summer. I had a new class of students with special needs. I usually had my older students act as classroom helpers for the younger grades, so I decided that this would be a good spot for her. Little did I know how that one little decision would change my life, not only as a teacher, but as a person.

Kevonna transformed before my very eyes. She showed compassion and patience with the children in that classroom. She was responsible and caring and she began referring to those students as “her kids.” I witnessed a natural teacher blooming. I had an unforgettable summer with Kevonna.

Soon the school year began and Kevonna and I were together again. This time our relationship was different. I was her teacher, not just the person in charge of her summer camp. Kevonna continued to make strides and prove that she had a different outlook on life. We had an eighth grade service learning club at the time. Our assistant principal was in charge of the club along with another eighth grade teacher. The other teacher and I approached the assistant principal about allowing Kevonna to join. He denied us at first based on her previous year’s academics and behavior. We kept pushing, telling him that she deserved a chance. He finally agreed. Kevonna not only became a member of the service club, but was voted president by her peers.

Kevonna continued to volunteer with “her kids” at my after-school program. She continued to make strides in school and impress people with her dedication and charm. Her smile was infectious and her sense of humor, astounding. In June, we always had a culminating activity with the service club and students shared what they enjoyed about their experience. I do not believe that anyone was prepared for what Kevonna had to say. She thanked every person there for believing in her and giving her a chance. She was genuinely grateful. There was not a dry eye in the room, students and teachers included. She had a wonderful year and walked across the stage at her eighth grade graduation to receive the Most Improved Student award. After the ceremony, we received gracious words of gratitude and praise along with tight hugs from her mother. What a proud day that was for me. Kevonna was extraordinary and her future was shining bright.

We continued to keep in touch when she went to high school. She still volunteered with “her kids” and still kept us informed of her academics and activities. Kevonna sent a letter to me, my colleague, and our assistant principal. In that letter, she thanked us again for giving her a chance and believing in her. She also stated that she had made her final decision and she was going to be a teacher! I don’t think I could have felt more pride than I did at that moment. Her letter was taped to my refrigerator for months.

Over the years, I met other wonderful students, but no one quite like Kevonna. Every time I saw Kevonna, she put me in a great mood. She always had a gigantic smile on her face and gave me a great big hug. She truly loved life and I felt so special to be a part of hers.

We shared a quick dinner of her favorite, Italian food, one fall. She caught me up on everything that was happening with her. She was a member of Future Teachers of America, doing well in school, applying to colleges, all the fun things that a young girl does. She insisted on knowing every little detail of my life and what had changed at our school. It was a wonderful evening. I ran into her, her mom, and sister again at the grocery store right before Thanksgiving. When she saw me in the store, she squealed with delight as she always did and gave me a huge smile and bear hug. We shared a quick conversation and went our separate ways.

A couple of months later, on a Saturday morning in January, my telephone rang. I answered the phone and heard “Did you hear about Kevonna? She died last night in a car accident!” I closed my eyes and all I could see was her beautiful smile. My husband looked at me and when I told him, he stared at me in disbelief. I hung up the phone and began sobbing. She was my special student and my shining star. She had a wonderful future ahead of her.

I sent her mother a card, attached a contest entry that I wrote about Kevonna, and included the last picture of us. My husband and I attended her funeral; it was standing room only. Everyone there was touched by Kevonna. When it came time to pay our respects to her family, I did not know how I was going to face her mother. When she saw me, she hugged me and said, “She loved you so much.” Through my tears, I responded, “I loved her too!” That day was filled with sorrow, but it was also a celebration, a celebration of Kevonna.

Now when I think about why I became a teacher, I think of Kevonna. She was truly an angel on earth. I miss her immensely. I have the last picture we took together hanging in my classroom as a daily reminder of why I am there. On those days when there are students who are testing my patience, I think of Kevonna and remember what a difference she made in my life. I wish every teacher a Kevonna; I am truly honored and blessed to have had her in my life.

~Patricia L. Marini

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