“Mrs. Kristin Njimengi, better known by the children and parents in our school as Teacher Kristin, sent me this message after my daughter’s holiday concert performance; this year’s traditional holiday concert was recorded due to the ongoing pandemic. Teacher Kristen is my daughter’s former preschool teacher, and my daughter, Lucia, is now a second-grader at Keewatin Elementary which is located in a small northern Minnesota community. Teacher Kristen also taught preschool to both of my sons, Frankie and Rowen, who are now in fourth and sixth grade.
While this message from a great teacher might not seem like much more than a cute message, it meant so much more than that to me. These last two years have been challenging, particularly as our school routines have changed in so many ways. As a mother of three children, it has been trying, feeling helpless as we are adapting to so many unprecedented changes. All the while wondering what impact this is having on my children. While they seem so much more resilient than I ever could have imagined, I cannot help but wonder how they are coping during these uncertain times. It seems like the mode of learning changes faster than Minnesota weather, which says a lot! Jokes aside, the isolation from friends and family, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, was more than I could bear at times, but I always tried to stay strong for my family.
That is why this message was so special to me. It reassured me that through everything, my kids are okay. They still have the experiences that make school such a magical place thanks to special teachers like Teacher Kristin. Like so many of us as children, Lucia felt an overwhelming feeling of delight while singing her songs. It didn’t matter to Lucia that her family couldn’t be there to watch her in person. There wasn’t disappointment in her heart or a yearning for things to go back to the way they were before the pandemic…she was quite simply full of joy, just singing. It was also that Teacher Kristin showed kindness, in asking Lucia about her performance, making Lucia feel special. It was the realization that Teacher Kristin didn’t have to share her heart-warming exchange with Lucia with me, but she wanted to because she knew it would give me a chuckle and brighten my day. It gave me a window into Lucia’s school day, even just for a moment, and it made me feel she was loved.
That is the kind of teacher Teacher Kristin has always been. She is a teacher that reassures you that your child is going to be okay. She’s the kind of teacher that will send you a picture of your child enthralled in an activity, or maybe it’s a small note in their backpack or sending you a text letting you know about something funny they said.
There was a time when my oldest son, Rowen, was in preschool and she had sent me a note in his backpack, telling me how he encouraged another student who was having a rough day.
The note read:
‘Rowen helped a friend today who was having a hard day. He said to the friend, ‘You can do it. I believe in you, and you are capable.”
…something I had heard her say to the children many times in her classroom.
In the first weeks of my middle son’s preschool year, we had a tough transition from home life to school. Frankie would begin to shed a tear almost every day just hearing the bus rounding the corner of the street to pick him up. My husband and I came up with a plan that we would have Rowen hold Frankie’s hand to guide and comfort him onto the bus, hoping it would give Frankie the encouragement that he needed. In the first month or so, if Rowen happened to let go of his hand, I would see Frankie bolting up our driveway back to the house as fast as he could. I remember yelling out a few times, ‘Rowen, grab his hand! Hurry!! Don’t let go!’ Most of the time the ritual worked getting him on the bus, but the anxiety once he arrived at school was troubling me.
Speaking to Teacher Kristin about our dilemma, she quickly came up with a routine for Frankie. After arriving at school every morning, she would have him go to the writing station and write a letter or color a picture for me. He still remembers to this day there was a time or two when he would just make a few splashes of color with marker on paper, seal it in an envelope, and stuff it in his backpack to give to me upon returning home. It was enough for him to feel brave enough to continue the rest of his day at school. He continued to do this every morning, and with each day he began to feel more and more confident.
When it came time for Lucia to start preschool, this time I was the one having a hard time letting go of her hand. She was my last one at home and sending her off to preschool for the first time was bittersweet. I didn’t tell Teacher Kristin how I felt about that first day of preschool for Lucia. I can only assume my feelings were written across my face, holding back tears, when I dropped her off that morning. Later that day, she sent me a picture of Lucia, smiling from ear to ear while riding a tricycle at free time.
There was another time Teacher Kristin sent me a picture of my children Lucia and Rowen hugging in the hallway of the school. Lucia, along with her preschool classmates, was on her way to lunch when Rowen happened to be at his locker. Lucia spotted him and asked Teacher Kristin if she could stop to give him a quick hug.
Throughout my life, I have always had great respect and admiration for teachers, especially after my attempt at tutoring my own children during distance learning. Having family members and friends who are teachers and in the past occasionally substitute teaching myself, I’m aware of the many issues they deal with on a regular basis knowing full well it must be incredibly difficult to navigate at times. There are now a whole new set of problems from the pandemic that have added extra strain to their jobs. So simply put, I am thankful they keep showing up. They still courageously go to work—many times not knowing what new obstacle they will be facing day to day—and teach our children not just academics, but so much more. They teach them by modeling what bravery, kindness, compassion, and love look like…in return, our kids feel safe, happy, and loved, and for this, I will be forever grateful. So, thank you, Teacher Kristin, to the teachers at Keewatin Elementary, and to all who teach.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Carissa Anselmo-Radel from Nashwauk, MN. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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