The annual Teacher and School Related Employee of the Year Awards Breakfast, sponsored by the Greater Bartow Chamber of Commerce and Bartow Community Healthcare Foundation Inc., and held Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Bartow Civic Center, was emotional towards its conclusion, just before the presentation of certificates of appreciation to this year’s teachers and employees.
The emotional outpouring began with the telling of “Teddy and His Teacher” by Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. It told of a fifth-grade teacher, identified as Mrs. Thompson, and a student of hers, Teddy Stoddard, who blossomed under her tutelage.
As she related the story, Byrd stumbled at times over her words. At the same time, there were those in attendance who dabbed at eyes moist with tears as they heard the transformative message of the story. However, effusive moments did not stop there.
Polk County Public School Board member Hazel Sellers appeared to choke as she spoke of a particular educator. While she prefaced her comments by saying that every educator present had a story of their own, she elected to speak about Gerald Tucker, with Bartow Middle School.
Daily, said Sellers, whenever she drives past Bartow Middle School, there is Tucker, greeting and welcoming students.
“That man makes you believe there’s no place else he’d rather be,” said Sellers. After several additional remarks, Sellers began calling out each individual honored with their Community Investment Certificate. As she called out their names, Sellers mentioned the school where each teacher and/or school-related employee worked. In addition, a photograph of the teacher and the school appeared on a screen above the stage for all to see.
About Teddy and His Teacher
The tale of little Teddy Stoddard and his inspirational teacher, Mrs. Thompson, is a work of fiction. The original story first appeared in 1976 in “Home Life” magazine. It was written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard (now Elizabeth Ungar) and called “Three Letters from Teddy.” The main character’s name was Teddy Stallard, not Teddy Stoddard. (Source: David Emery, www.urbanlegends.about.com)
At the beginning of the school year, a fifth-grade teacher named Mrs. Thompson welcomes her students. She tells them she loves all of them, but that is not the truth. There is one student, Teddy Stoddard, who seems incapable of being loved. Isolated, unkempt, seriously in need of a bath, and clearly troubled, Thompson treats her student in a callous fashion, taking delight in marking his papers in bold, red ink with “X’s” and a big “F” on top of his papers; until one day when she reads his first to fourth grade school record.
She discovers that at the start of his school career Teddy had been an excellent student and someone well liked by his classmates. That changed however as his mother, diagnosed with a terminal illness, declined in health and eventually passed away. It also resulted in his being neglected by his father. As a consequence, Teddy retreated into himself.
Learning about his history transforms Thompson, and she begins taking a special interest in Teddy. With her attention and encouragement, Teddy blossoms. By the time the school year ends, he is one of her top students. Through the years, she occasionally hears from Teddy in letters he sends her. The letters always tell her she is the best teacher he ever had.
By the story’s end, Teddy is a man, a respected doctor. He is soon to be married and he asks Thompson to sit in the seat of honor his mother would have occupied. At the wedding, he again tells her she has been the best teacher he ever had and he thanks her. The story ends:
“Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” (Source: David Emery, www.urbanlegends.about.com)