I remember the first time you stepped into my class room in 7th grade. Geography was a relatively "new" subject for us and I had been taught only by 1 teacher before. I remember thinking to myself, "this teacher looks so sophisticated! wow, what class she's got!". I will never forget the tall and lean teacher with the hair tied in a "sophisticated" bun and an everlasting smile on the lips. I wondered then, if you would be the type who would get angry very easily. I realise now, I can't remember a single time when you lost your temper or even came close to it! When the seniors in high school were playing a "guess the teacher game", it wasn't hard to figure out whom they were refering to as the "walking encyclopedia". You were one of the only teachers who spent atleast an hour each night browsing the web at a time when the internet was a new concept to us all.
I remember my first geography lesson with you. It was unlike any other lesson! For the first time I heard a teacher speak so extensively on the topic. The textbook only required us to learn the basic facts about Europe and Australia. But we walked out knowing the current affairs and intricate details of their climates! The stupid syllabus required us to mug up all the capitals of every European country. You made it easy for us in the cheesiest and the funniest possible ways! I remember you quizzing us... you asked a boy what the capital of Sweden was. He didn't know. But the rest of us did and raised our hands. You refused to give up hope on the boy. You hinted at the answer as much as you could in a subtle way. He couldn't answer. You still didn't give up. Instead, you decided to be more obvious, by pointing to all of us saying, "We have a STOCK of answers here!". I am willing to bet that every kid who couldn't answer your quiz that day remembers all the facts about Europe till this day. I know I do! That was the best thing! We truly learnt from the mistakes we made while you were around. Because you never gave up hope. I grew to love you more than any other teacher. I respected you more than the rest.
In 8th grade, things changed. The geography department of our school had only 2 noteworthy teachers back then. I had for you 7th, I got the other for 8th. I remember the first class with her! She looked at me and said, "You were in the other teacher's class for 7th geography right? I have to warn you, geography is not going to be as much fun with me around. She's the best teacher this school has seen". Whoa! No student ever heard one teacher genuinely praise another like that! Its not just because you were the best teacher at school, its also because you were different... gossip was not your cup of tea. While it was prevalent in the staff rooms, you magically managed to avoid the politics of the staffroom, to rise in the eyes of your colleagues. I bet thats a record!
I remember not seeing you around in the beginning of 9th grade. We still had geography as a subject. But you were nowhere is sight. We got some new replacement teacher! We were all so disappointed and wondered where you went. Then we found out, you had gone for a vacation! And whats even better, you would be back soon and would take your place as our class teacher! That was like my best school dream come true!!!!! :D :D :D And 9th was the most glorious year for me....
I remember all the medals I won for athletics. And its a fact that a huge chunk of those medals came to me when I was in 9th. I remember coming class first, FOR THE FIRST TIME OF MY LIFE! Because you always backed me up. While most other teachers looked at me disapprovingly, not happy with my academic performance, not happy with me running in shorts, not happy with me "wasting" my time when I could be scoring centums in exams, you encouraged me to keep up my extra curricular activities. For the first time, I came to realise that you also respected my need to be an all rounder and that you understood my frustration with the pressure of trying to be class first. I was class first all of 9th grade except for once. I slipped to class second. While all other teachers gave me the "told you so" look, you merely smiled at me and said you were very proud of me because I had just won the championship for my tournament! Three golds and 2 silvers! At a time when I used to underestimate my own capabilities, you showed me what I was truly capable of. You showed me that some things in life are just worth more than centums and first rank. That year, I won my very first proficiency prize. I got the Best All-Rounder proficiency! I still remember the conversation we had after I won. I realised I won because you nominated me. It meant (and still does mean) a lot to me to have a teacher have so much of faith in me, to stand beside me when most others stood against me. You were more than a teacher to me. Today, I have loads more proficiency certificates and cups and all. But that certificate I got because of you is the one that I will value the most.
I remember how remarkable 10th grade geography was. It was all about India and you made us all feel proud of our country! I know I didn't score well in my final geography paper. I know the maps I drew weren't the neatest ones. I know my handwriting was (and still is) terrible. I know you always wanted me to improve in those areas. I know you had faith in me, that I would get through NTSE. I am so sorry I didn't. I am so sorry if I disappointed you. But I can say this much from the bottom of my heart. I tried my best. And I did that just for you. Because by then, you were not just a teacher.
You were my idol
After 10th, came 11th and 12th. The years devoid of geography and history. My years in school without you. I missed you. You left school. But I never stopped thinking about you. I missed making the "geography teacher" special cards for teacher's day. Life went on....
I remember graduating out of school with honours! I was school second! By then, I had improved enough to get full marks in maths, almost full in all my science subjects and did surprisingly well in my languages. I wish you were around when I got my results. I know you would have been happy for me. I didn't give up on sports even in 12th grade. I know that would have made you happy.
I remember visiting school one day (after I got admission in a local college and before I got into NUS). I remember bumping into the other geography teacher (who has also left school now). She told me she had your phone number! I was so excited! I jotted it down and ran back home and gave you a ring. I was beside myself with joy when you recognized my voice! I remember how awesome it felt to talk to you about my final two years of school and my new college. You were one of the few teachers who was truly happy I chose to listen to my heart and pursue science, instead of succumbing to the social pressure of becoming an engineer or a medical doctor. I decided, now that I found you, I would never lose you again. But I was wrong...
I remember, I couldn't reach you to tell you I got into NUS. You didn't know that I was going to Singapore. And I haven't spoken to you since. People think that after spending two years in NUS, I must have forgotten how much I respected you. But they are all wrong.
I still adore you.My idol. I still think you are the best teacher I student could have
A couple of days ago, my mom came online and told me that you had called! I didn't believe her. I refused to believe her. It must have been someone else. Maybe a prank call or a wrong number or something. Why would you call me? HOW could you call me? You didn't have my phone number. But you still called. I don't know how you found my number. But that doesn't matter. YOU REMEMBER ME!!!! You remember me enough to call and find out how I am!
Mom told me that you said you had gone to the USA for a while. Thats why I couldnt get in touch with you. But you called me after coming back! You still do care.
You know what? I can't wait to get back home and give you a call. I can't wait to tell you all that has happened. I know you will be disappointed that I gave up sports in the very first semester. But wait till you hear that I play the violin in concerts now! That I am the president of the Indian orchestra of NUS! That I am doing good in studies. That I love life. That I value the freedom university gives me. That I still remember all that you taught me. That I think of you every time I ponder over my next move after graduation. That I think of you everytime it rains here at 4pm, because I still remember you teaching us about the 4 'o' clock showers of the equatorial regions!
I have to tell you frankly, I am still shaking my head at the thought of you calling home. Because I still can't believe it. My teacher remembers me. Remembers me well enough and cares enough to call and find out how I am. Wow...
Is it any wonder that I idolize you? :)
Happy belated teachers day! Hope to speak to you soon!
Your loving student,