There is a story from many years ago of a primary school teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of the 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked her students and said that she loved them all the same.
But that was impossible because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs.Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, his clothes were messy and constantly need a bath. And ,Teddy could be unpleasant.
It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in making his papers with a broud red pen, making bold Xs and then putting a "F" at the top of his papers. At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to relieve each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last.
However, when she relieved his file, she was in a surprise, Teddy's first grade teacher wrote," Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners...he is a joy to be around."
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates. But he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tried to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest in him, and his home life will steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful paper and tied with pretty ribbons, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.
Mrs.Thompson opened it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to."
After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On the very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Instead she began to teach children how to be a man.
Mrs.Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class.
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years later went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that he would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. Then four more years past and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer—the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he'd met his girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of yeas ago and he was wondering if Mrs.Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course Mrs. Thompson did.
At the wedding ceremony,they hugged each other, and Dr.Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs.Thompson for believing in me, thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."
Mrs.Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."