#16? check.

I wanted to pop in and tell you how fulfilling and rewarding this month has been, thanks to a certain life list item I’ve been focusing on (with Jack Cards* — thanks again, guys!):

After sending out twenty thank you notes to my favorite former teachers, I honestly thought there would be radio silence for a good few months. And then? Maybe I’d hear back from a few.

Instead, I was amazed at my overflowing mailbox this past week. A dozen notes from my former teachers, thanking me for my note, as well as keeping me up to date with their latest adventures. Many are retired and loved hearing from me (and love hearing from all former students, that is). But one note struck me in particular:

Dear Erin,

Your letter couldn’t have come at a better time… I had a chat with my good friend about teaching this past week. Teaching has changed so much… We contemplated submitting early retirement out of sheer frustration. Parents, administration and students are often failing to work together…It has nearly diminished to our enthusiasm and love for teaching. You, Erin, have reminded me why I began teaching. We’re changing lives (for the better, I hope!). I’m so grateful for that reminder.

Thank you, Erin. You should be very proud of who you’ve become. I know I’m very proud to call you my former student.

I absolutely cried when I read this note. I left out a few parts, but I think the message is clear: gratitude is a necessary practice in our daily lives. Let’s continue thanking each other for things (both big and small!) and acknowledging this game called life. We’re in it together, yes?

Go forth and thank.

*Full disclosure: Jack Cards provided the thank you cards I’ve sent to my former teachers. Huge thanks to this innovative company!

  • I have always wanted to do this. So many amazing teachers in my life who shaped the woman I became. (Mrs. O’Brien? If you’re reading? Expect a letter!)

    Thanks for the inspiration Erin. How wonderfu.

  • How touching and inspiring! Thank you so so much for sharing. Teachers are the unsung heroes of our childhoods.

  • This is beautiful! I have kept in touch with a couple teachers over the years, but I am thinking it might be worth it to send thank yous to some of the teachers who weren’t my favorite, but who taught me hard lessons that the ones who “liked” me more might not have been able to.

  • My guidance counselor in high school changed my life, singlehandedly and his name as Mr. Loving…he was so kind to me and my 3 sisters…I did later thank him and this is so wonderful! xo

  • claire — what a brilliant point. i had a super hard teacher who i absolutely despised while in school, but she was first on my ‘to thank’ list. i learned SO much while in her classroom!

  • This is so cool and amazing. I loved all my teachers (especially my 4th grade teacher….mega inspiring woman). How did you track them down??

  • Erin,
    This was SOOOO incredibly awesome of you. I would love to do something like this myself as you’ve inspired me of the power of this. And with the state of the teaching profession, I think all of our mentors deserve this kind of pat on the back more than ever before!

  • I love that you’re writing to thank your teachers. As a teacher I can say that letters from students mean soooo much. I’ve also written some of the teachers who have influenced me in a positive way. Gratitude is a beautiful thing!

  • you really do have to do it, guys! its amaaaaazingly rewarding.

    and alix — i actually used whitepages.com (a great resource!) to track down my elementary/high school teachers. it took a bit of work, but i’m from a small town so it was much easier than it might be for most.

    for my former university professors, i contacted my alumni association. i haven’t been out of college for more than 10 years, so many were still working there and i just sent the notes to their office.

    next on the list? personal visits/hugs!

  • What a wonderful idea. May I borrow it? I would love to let sone teachers know what a huge influence they had in my life.

  • I teach elementary school/small group reading (think kids that just don’t get enough support at home…) and what I wouldn’t do to receive a note from a former student that said “Hey! I did it! I’m happy! I’m successful! and thank you.” (I also volunteer to direct Drama After School and the SAG awards last night had me dreaming that “one day…that could be one of the kids I’ve turned on to drama…”)
    I come home each night and tell my husband about the kids that I parent because basically…their parents are not. There is so much talk about investing in education (and I’m paid through US government funding) BUT it begins at home. Teachers are there- we love what we do- but with all the hoops we have to jump through I can relate to what your former teacher wrote to you.
    And that reminds me to get a note out to Mr. Grimmer, my high school history teacher who I adore to this day.

  • I love your perspective, Mrs. Benson. Keep up the awesome work you’re doing; it really does shape lives.


  • Erin!
    You are definitely the amazing wonder of pure delight this world so desperately yearns for….

    Thank you notes are imperative, and I’m so thrilled to see you helping in bringing them back!

    BTW, LOVED meeting you at ALT! Total highlight for sure.


  • nice, erin. i could go on and on about how underpaid and undervalued our teachers are. any encouragement and support is so important. and, i’m not even a parent. i just remember the ones that encouraged me. i think i’ll write them a note!

  • Erin that is so amazing! I agree that gratitude is SOOOO important, the smallest things can make the biggest difference when it seems like nothing in the world is going right, when you want to give up. I try to make a gratitude list everyday especially when I’m feeling down. Reaching out to people that have made a difference in your life response or not, is sending a piece of gratitude out into the world.

  • i looooove that you make gratitude lists, katie! trying to get back into that habit; thanks for the reminder!

  • WOW. This is so incredible!
    I’ve kept up a regular “pen pal” correspondence with a few favorite teachers over the years, but this really inspired me to say THANK YOU to all the teachers who made a difference for me. I’m on it right now. You are so awesome!
    (ps. I wrote “would you spend $100 on this?” on a slip of paper and taped it to my laptop!)

  • Erin, you are such an inspiration, all the time. It’s so awesome that you took the time to do this. I really need to do this for a whole bunch of teachers. Thanks for being such a ray of light!

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  • This is such a beautiful idea; you’ve inspired me to do it myself! Thanks for the encouragement.

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