Every now and then, a student is sent into your life to remind you why you teach. After 27 years of teaching, I received this letter from T Girl, a beautiful college-aged dancer who was my private student for her high school years, as well as a student in my ballet, tap, and jazz classes at the academy. She came to me from another cutthroat ballet studio, broken and bruised, and having lost her joy because they’d told her she’d never be “good enough”.
I spent hours with her, digging for new levels of performance that took her pain and channeled it into depth. I worked to help her find the joy of Aurora on her 16th birthday. I coached her through Rockettes auditions and college selection. She left my rehearsals with floor burns and bruises and achy feet… and a smile. She was one of those students who cared, who worked furiously hard for me, and who made it worth the time invested.
Here is HER perspective.
I came to you as a broken gingerbread girl who didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold. When I think of the people who have most influenced my life, you come to mind behind only my parents. Without you, I would not be the dancer or the person I am today. Not only did you restore my sense of self-confidence and self worth, you helped me develop into a well-rounded person.
You taught me that I am talented, unique, and valuable, and that the possibilities are endless. You taught me to appreciate where I come from, and the history behind what I do today. You showed me what a teacher should act like: putting the students above themselves and caring deeply about each one’s well being. You rekindled hope where it had started to die, and reminded me why I love dance.
You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. While growing my love and passion for dance, you also taught me that there is more to life. You instilled in me the importance of community. I learned to live love. I use advice you gave me to this day. (pro-con sheets :))
I am moving forward as a confident dancer (and person) with a passion for glorifying God through my talents. This process has taken me five years, and you have been with me since day one. I am so thankful that God put you in my life as a mentor and friend. Without your help and guidance I might still be stuck in a dark pit of self-hate and despair. Thank you for helping me use the bad things to come out on top a strong and better person. I’m doing a poor job of articulating how much you’ve positively impacted me. Tons of memories are coming to mind (eating cookie-brownies in class and laughing so hard everyone was crying, drawing dinosaurs with ____, all our private lessons). I can’t even begin to describe them all and how much each one means to me.
Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for being such a wonderful role model of a teacher and mentor. I hope one day I will be able to help younger dancers as you have helped me. You have truly been my champion.
Included with the letter was this little note:
In Ireland, I was asked to do numerous writing exercises… one of them was writing and mailing a letter to someone who has been our champion. You came to mind as my champion. Here is your letter!
There really is nothing left to say.