Keep in mind that I was the only Chinese girl in my classes which already set me apart from everyone else. My father worked in a Chinese restaurant and was the only person who worked in our family of 5. My family also followed strict Chinese customs which was very different from the average American family and I was embarrassed whenever my two lives overlapped.
I remember it was the beginning of winter and while we put our math problems on the board, my teacher talked about personal hygiene. She never singled anyone out but stressed how important it was for young men and women to bathe every day and use deodorant. Other important lessons in life were shared and she treated all of us like young adults. I think she even knew how shy I was and never embarrassed me in class but one day she asked me to stay after class for a minute. She just wanted to let me know how much she loved the clothes I wore which had me speechless. You see, my mother had to make most of my clothes because money was tight and I always envied the other teenagers who bought all these neat clothes that I couldn’t. This teacher gave me the attention that I craved and never even knew I craved it. Maybe she heard other kids making fun of me but I never knew about it. In fact, she came over to my house for dinner one night and my mother even made her an outfit for school. Of course this made me the star of the class instead of being the odd one with a family of strange customs.
I have always kept this vision in my head as I taught. I hope that I can touch a student’s life in a positive way, the same way this teacher made an impact in mine. It’s amazing that this happened in my life over 30 years ago and it still is a strong memory for me.