Her name was Mrs.
Thompson. As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the
very first day of school, she told the children a lie.
Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she
loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there
in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named
Mrs.Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that
he didn't play well with the other children that his clothes
were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could
be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs.Thompson would
actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red
pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to
review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until
last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a
Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with
a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners...
he is a joy to be around."
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student,
well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his
mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard
on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show
much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some
steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and
doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many
friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed
of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her
Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright
paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in
the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.
Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other
presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a
rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a
bottle that was one quarter full of perfume.
But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how
pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the
perfume on her wrist.
Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to
say, "Mrs.Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to,"
After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that
very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and
arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children.
Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked
with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged
him, the faster he responded.
By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of smartest
children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love
all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy,
telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in
his whole life.
Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He
then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class,
and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole
Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while
things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck
with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest
of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best
and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This
time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he
decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she
was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his
name was a little longer -- the letter was signed, Theodore F.
The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another
letter that spring. Teddy said he'd met this girl and was going
to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of
years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to
sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for
the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs.Thompson did.
And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several
rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the
perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last
Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard
whispered in Mrs.Thompson's ear, "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 really know how to
teach until I met you."