71: A Lifelong Friendship

71: A Lifelong Friendship

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

A Lifelong Friendship

A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher…
awakens your own expectations.

~Patricia Neal

I met Mrs. Sase my senior year in high school. I was struggling greatly in her math class. On top of having always struggled with math, I was dealing with the fears and anxieties that come with being a foster youth and worrying deeply about the future that lay in store for me. I had been living with foster parents, and our agreement was that after graduation I was to move out and begin my life as an adult, at seventeen.

The burden of this anxiety resulted in a lack of motivation in school. Most teachers assumed I had senioritis or just didn’t care. Mrs. Sase, however, took a closer look. I will never forget the first time she walked over to my desk and handed me a little folded note. It read, “Are you okay?”

I was shocked by her genuine care and interest in my wellbeing. Not only was she intuitive and sensitive enough to notice my reserve, she took the time to personally make a difference. She listened as I shared my most hidden fears about my past and the uncertain future that was closing in on me. She listened when others seemed to be too busy to show concern or too fearful to try. She agreed to write my letter of recommendation when I decided to apply for the Guardian Scholars program; a comprehensive program committed to supporting ambitious, college-bound students exiting the foster care system. Her letter was meticulously thought-out and meaningful, even with the high demand of students who wanted her to be the one teacher to write their letters of recommendation. It is something I will always treasure.

I found new ambition through Mrs. Sase’s support and devotion to my academic and personal success. If I was sick and had to miss school, I would still go to school for the one hour of Mrs. Sase’s math class. Not only did my grades dramatically improve, so did my confidence.

There is something very powerful in feeling that you have someone who truly cares for you and deeply believes in you. Mrs. Sase gave me the support I needed to overcome the obstacles in my life. Because of her personal influence and encouragement, I found faith in myself and came to believe that I could achieve academic and personal success. I believe that the most healing and important thing in a mentoring/helping relationship is consistency. She has not missed one hard day, one tear, one birthday or one celebration. She is truly a beautiful teacher, friend and mentor.

I owe a great deal of my success to Mrs. Sase, not only for the profound and lasting impact she had on my life in high school, but also for her continued support after graduation. The most amazing thing about Mrs. Sase is that I am just one of an army of students who would confess that Mrs. Sase changed their lives as well. Her entire classroom is filled with memorabilia and letters of utmost gratitude for her and the life-changing impact she has had on so many students.

While getting to know Mrs. Sase my senior year in high school, I learned that she had recently lost both her parents to cancer. She had moved home to Irvine to care for them and teach at Woodbridge High School. When I look back on the generosity and love she gave so freely to me, it’s overwhelming to know that my first day meeting her was also her first day back to school after the loss of two of the greatest and most important people in her life.

I received an e-mail my senior year in college from a friend informing me of the Carlston Family Foundation, a foundation that recognizes teachers nominated by former students who credit their success in high school, college and beyond to one special educator who made a difference. The teacher that is chosen is given the title “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” and receives a $15,000 check from the Carlston Family Foundation. The school where this teacher teaches also receives a $5,000 prize.

I immediately felt compelled to write. In fact, it was hard to limit myself in all that I wanted to share. I wanted every reader to truly understand how important Mrs. Sase is. I guess it wasn’t hard to see. She was chosen and received the award with awe and humility. The award ceremony is one of the greatest memories I have. I am so thankful that I was able to give back to someone who has shown me that there are people in this world who are genuinely good, who care for others and believe that each and every person is smart, strong, and fully capable of being successful and are worthwhile.

By some miracle, I was in Mrs. Sase’s math class. The identifying term “math teacher” robs her of all the incredible titles this woman possesses. Mrs. Sase is an angel who spreads her wings so far and wide that all who find themselves in her path feel forever protected, believed in, and cared for. She’s so much more than a teacher. She’s a friend and a big sister. The Orange County Register quoted Mrs. Sase in an interview after she received the Carlston Family Foundation award saying, “the kids are my heartbeat.” She is mine.

~Jayde Rossi

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