Tuesday, November 26, 2013

With Thanks to My Teachers

Today I am participating in "Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving" at Teaching Authors.  Coupled with American Education Week, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show my appreciation for the teachers who helped shape the person I am today.

One of the most meaningful compliments I received from a teacher came to me at the end of my senior year at Connecticut College, from someone who hardly knew me... or so I thought.  It was finals week.  Classes were over and graduation in sight.  As I breezed from one end of campus to the other, I bumped into Professor Gene Gallagher.  Though I wasn't a religious studies major, I had enjoyed participating in his class, Cults and Conversion in Modern America, that semester-- just a theater major with a desire to expand my horizons.

Eugene Gallagher
It was a brief exchange, a passing remark really.  A handful of seconds that somehow made a profound impact.  He said:

"You're a brave woman, Michelle."  

How I've treasured these words over the subsequent 25 years.  These words that reflected the height of my self-confidence.  Yes, I was that brave woman, passionately stepping out into the real world, keeping my eyes open to opportunity, and meeting life boldly, with intentionality.

But who was responsible for cultivating that bravery?  My parents, of course, but also my teachers.  Teachers who have always been there, nurturing, stimulating, supporting, and guiding me through unfamiliar territory, knowing me more than I thought possible, and challenging me to become extraordinary.

Since then, life, with its stencil and exacto knife, has attempted to carve away at that confidence with varying degrees of success.  These days, bravery has metamorphosed into resilience, but the passion is still alive.  Every day I strive for that peak of self-confidence to bloom again.


Today's little ditty is a thank you note.  Though simple in its acrostic form, I dedicate it to Professor Gallagher and to all of my teachers and mentors, in school and in life.  Thank you for the enCOURAGEment to pursue my dreams

          Believe in yourself
          Respect those who came before
          Allow the possibilities
          Venture into the unknown
          Education matters

              © 2013 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.


  1. It's a marvelous tribute to that one teacher, then those others unnamed, but not forgotten! I like the word BRAVE as the anchor, and Education Matters for your finale, Michelle. Can't help but say those slang words, "You go, girl!" I rather like them!

  2. The lesson that *Resilience trumps self-confidence* is one that only experience can teach. Kudos to a pro!

  3. What a wonderful tribute to the importance of teachers, Michelle.

  4. Linda, Tabatha, Pops, and Laura, your kind words are much appreciated!

  5. What a wonderful tribute, Michelle. Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

    1. Oh, and I forgot to say: Thank YOU for participating in our Two Weeks of Thanks-Giving!

    2. My pleasure! Thank you for the motivation to do so. :)

  6. Feeling as if you have introduced him to an appreciative world. A lovely tribute.