This has been a rough year already and we are only 5 days in and I know of 6 deaths. More than 1 for each day of the year so far. I want to talk about my mentor who passed away at the age of 66 on January 3, 2015. My students know her name, and they know how much she means to me. They know how much I loved her and how much she helped me through some of the hardest moments in my life. They also know that I model my teaching philosophy in honor of her.
When I was a young man I struggled to fit in often wondering if I was going to be able to make it or not in life. I have come to find out that the majority of kids think this way of course but as a kid it was difficult and I needed an outlet. I had a Guidance Counselor who was just the most awful person you could ever meet. He told me I was destined for a life of drugs, and jail and that I would never attend a college or become anything relevant. Knowing darn well I was a good kid and I didn’t mess around with things like that I knew this man was absolutely incorrect about me but there were times when I believed he may be right about the college part. I was not widely accepted by my peers in High School which had its group based friendships and well I wasn’t part of any of them. It didn’t help that I am loud and wasn’t very good looking at the time and my grades were simply horrifying.
But along came this English teacher one of a kind in every way. She didn’t care how I looked. She didn’t care how much I talked or how loud I was. She didn’t care that my grades were horrible and she befriended me anyway. She was there for me. Heck at this time she wasn’t even my teacher and she still was there for me. I had known her from Middle School and know what a great person you was. Once she even raised her voice to me and I remember I couldn’t stop apologizing for my behavior. Most say they never heard her raise her voice and it’s true for the most part however, I was very good at bringing that out of people sometimes. In my senior year I returned to High School got my schedule and was so excited that Ms. Novak (Letitia) was my teacher for English first period. When I arrived at class we had a substitute and I asked the sub where she was. At that moment I found out she was in a horrific accident the year prior at the end of the year after school had already ended. I had no clue and we lost contact for quite a while. At that moment I began remembering all of the talks we had, how she pushed me to be better and how she helped me believe in myself. I can still see her with her sock puppet singing, “I Got Rhythm”. She was so funny she was more than just a teacher to me. Over time she became my mentor, a second mom and a friend.
After my senior year I made a lot of changes in my life. I searched and searched for her but all her information was private and let’s be honest her accident forced her into retirement and she should have the right to enjoy that without a student annoying her. I did a lot of things in my life and hell it was in turmoil at some points. So many things going wrong especially after my older brothers death. My life was in a tailspin downwards and I was in one heck of rut.
Finally after so many years of searching I was able to locate her on Facebook and I requested her friendship. We started to talk a little online as much as she could hd a couple face-to-face moments on skype. Those moments were some of the best moments of my life. The way she lived was amazing. She had no fear and just wanted to enjoy her life and her family and it was great that she allowed me to be a very small part of it. I was honored. She loved anyone and everyone and had a very strong faith. She was a beautiful and kid and there aren’t words that can tell you how I truly feel. I won’t share anymore personal information about her except that on January 3, 2015. I lost my mentor, my second mom, and my friends.
I honor her and will continue to honor her every day in class with my students and make sure that every student is accepted, respected and cared for every single day. Her last words for her family were beautiful and I can hear them echo in my head in her voice. I would share those comments with you but I believe they are that sacred. All I will say is that even in her passing she still showed love, care, sincerity and created closure for all those that loved her before she left us forever. At the moment I found out about her passing I was a complete mess and I admit it even now I am brought to tears when I talk or write about her but I will love life, and teach in her honor. I will love everyone, and give everyone a chance just like she did for me and many others. Thank you Letitia for everything you have done for me and for being there for me when I needed someone. I always wondered how someone can have so much love to pass around but no I see it for myself with every student I communicate with.
Love you always, and forever in my heart. Rest in Paradise.