Today I had lunch with a woman I hold oh-so-close to my heart, and have held her there since I was 15 years old. She is one of the most influential people in my life, and in many ways, she made me who I am today. Her name is Ann MacKinnon, and she was my high school science teacher for three years: Physical Science in ninth grade, Honors Chemistry in eleventh grade, and Honors Physics my senior year. She is hands down the most intelligent woman I have ever known, but that is not why she is who she is to me. You see, Mrs. MacKinnon saved me. She went so far beyond what was expected of her as a teacher–she looked past my own view of myself and saw something she believed in, something she knew I needed to discover in myself. Every morning before school, I went to her classroom to talk to her. Many days I was back in her room after school, reaching out to her to help me figure out who I was. Who I now am. You see, I had a rough go of adolescence. As so many teenage girls do, I hated my body, struggled to make good friends, and battled constantly with my parents who, I now realize, had absolutely no idea what to do with me. Mrs. MacKinnon reached out to me, pulled me close, and simply loved me.
Since graduation in 1999, I have stayed in touch with Mrs. MacKinnon, who I later began to call AA for Aunt Ann, as she transcended the role of a teacher and became like family to me. She and I try to go to lunch or dinner as often as we can, and whenever we do get together, we can’t help but look back on those tumultuous years and smile. She always tells me how proud she is of me, how happy I am now, and how impressed she is with who I have become. Is there any greater, more meaningful compliment? I don’t think there is. I always think of Ann when I stand in front of a room full of students, like I will be doing about three weeks from now, and I remember what she did for me, how many hours she gave me of her personal life, how many encouraging notes and gifts and hugs I have received from her over the years. I can only hope that I have loved my students the way that Mrs. MacKinnon has loved me. When teachers allow themselves to be more than a teacher to a kid, lives change. I know this much is true.
This is a gift she gave me at lunch today, and as I opened it, she said that she thought of me as soon as she saw it, and she has had it wrapped for months, waiting on a chance for us to see one another. I am humbled by her thoughtfulness and her love for me today.