When I was young I had a speech and learning disability. At that time, kids with difficulties such as mine were simply thrown into a lower reading group. There was high, medium, low – and then my group.
My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Marshall, saw that the children in the class would laugh at me and exclude me from many of the activities. So, he went out of his way to make me feel special. He chose me as Projector Monitor, which, in the fifth grade was a very prestigious honor. This helped raise my self – esteem and it also raised the respect my classmates had for me.
One day Mr. Marshall took me aside and said, “I know you’re very smart.” Those words meant so much coming from a man who I looked up to. Before then, I had never thought of myself as “smart.” After all, I was the lowest reading group.
My favorite time in class was story time where Mr. Marshall would read and we would sit quietly. I will always remember the day he read the story of a hawk. In the story, you were in the mind of the hawk. I was so intrigued by this, and inspired by the way Mr. Marshall read the words, that I ran to the Library and checked out that book. I used my finger to skim along the words and carefully I pronounced each one. It took me two months to get through it.
After that, I checked out the next book in that series, and it took me one month to read. By the time I finished the entire series, I was reading normally and my speech had greatly improved.
In college I began a tutoring service where I helped children with disabilities similar to my own. I became a professional tutor and even went on to get my M.B.A. and Ph.D.
Several years ago I wrote Mr. Marshall a letter saying, “I want to thank you for changing my life.”
Because of him, I have been ably to help other children, and, about six years ago, I started a Great Books Club where a group of adults gathers monthly to discuss literature. We have read over fifty-two works of fiction, most of which, like Ulysses, the Iliad, and the Odyssey, are classics.
My Earth Angel, Mr. Marshall, inspired me to find confidence within myself. This confidence, throughout the years, has enabled me to share my love of the written word by bringing others into the wonderful world of fiction.
By Michael Reiss
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