My Open Letter To The Teacher Who Changed Everything

If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Dear Mr. D.,

This past week I received the 2017 OSU Outstanding Senior Award for the College of Liberal Arts as a Political Scientist in the School of Public Policy. Out of the entire College of Liberal Arts around 45 seniors were nominated and only 10 were ultimately chosen. I was one of those 10. Now while this may seem like a brag (not my intention), to me this is much more about everyone who has been with me on this path and helped steer me in my life. After receiving this award I sat down and thought about all the people that helped get me to this point and there is one that stuck out in particular. The reality is that I would not even be a Political Scientist if it were not for you.

We all have that one teacher, whether it is in kindergarten, 5th, or 12th grade that changes everything. They are the ones you think back to and can recall the valuable lessons they taught you both inside and outside the classroom. These teachers inspire us with their dedication, commitment, enthusiasm, and connection with these topics. They show us why education is so important and change the ways we look at the world. You did all of these things for me, and so much more.

Words cannot express how thankful that I am that fate made us cross paths, and I had the pleasure of learning about the government from you. It was the first time in my life that I felt a connection to what I was learning and felt inspired enough to actually think I could make a change. You were the first teacher I had who cared more about my knowledge than a test, and it was an AP Government class. I remember everyday entering your class knowing that I would come out a better student, social servant, and individual.

 When I entered college as an Environmental Engineer, I always had you in the back of my mind. When I was in my engineering classes I was trying to capture the feeling I had when I was in your class and couldn’t. That was until I took my first Political Science class “Intro to American Government.” Finally I began to feel the way I had in your class and realized that this is what I was passionate about. All I wanted to do was learn, talk, and teach others about the government. It was in that moment that I knew I was in the wrong major. With you in mind I switched majors to Political Science.

Your inspiration did not stop there and as I progressed through my education I realized that I didn’t just have a passion for government, but rather teaching government to others. I jumped at any opportunity to educate my peers and pass on the valuable lessons you had once taught me. When I had the opportunity to become a undergraduate TA in college I reminded myself everyday to emulate you, and translate my passion of government to my students just the way you had to me so many years earlier. All of this made me want to apply to graduate school to get my teaching certificate and hopefully one day be in a high school classroom teaching government just like you.

As I sat and processed all of these feelings I knew that I had to tell you. I needed you to know the impact you have had on my life, and so many others. Many of your students have never forgotten you and I envy the students who will have you as a teacher in the future. You once told us that “if you aren’t the ones to go out and make the change then who will be, you are the best of the best, and if you aren’t willing to lead the charge then no one will.” This idea has stayed with me since then and it motivates me everyday to be my best self and try and change the world. The truth is I would not be the political scientist and activist that I am today without you and your class. I am forever in your debt and hope that one day I can return the favor. From the bottom of my heart… Thank you.

Tell us about the teacher that inspires you.

  Photo taken by author Justyn Jacobs.