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Hale’s English 9 Students Give Thanks Back To Their Teachers

Sam Helmholtz

MS. HALE READS A THANK YOU NOTE -- Ms. Hale reads a thank-you note that was addressed to her by one of her students.

Sam Helmholtz, Chattanooga Central High School

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Teachers are one of the biggest acting forces in a child’s life. They give so much to so many children, yet they often are not fully aware of the impact they have on their students; students are usually more reserved in showing their appreciation. For this reason, Ms. Casey Hale, a ninth grade English teacher, decided to have her classes write thank-you notes to their teachers in celebration of Thanksgiving.

“I suddenly thought, ‘You know what? Let’s use today to really think about who we are grateful for and why. I can teach the other lesson any other day of the school year,’” Hale remarked.

The letters were addressed to any faculty members that had impacted the students’ lives in some way, either academically or personally.

“It was purely up to the students to decide which faculty member this would be,” remarked Hale. “Many of them instantly knew their choice.”

There were a wide array of recipients, including Mr. Strickland and Mr. Mullins. For the teachers in C-pod, Ms. Hale hand delivered their letters. The rest of them were put into the recipients’ mailboxes as a sort of surprise. In these letters, the students were encouraged to write about a specific instance in which their life had been impacted, to thank their chosen faculty member for the help they had received, and express what it meant to them.

“Practicing gratitude is one of the biggest lessons that I hope I can teach my students, especially through this activity,” commented Ms. Hale. “It was so moving to see how excited my students were to participate in the letter writing. Many of them asked to write multiple letters because they wanted to thank more than one faculty member.”

Mrs. Atkins, the ninth grade guidance counselor, was another staff member that had a letter addressed to them. She received a letter from Gabrielle Taylor. Atkins has counseled with Gabrielle about her grades and has fervently encouraged her to improve them. She even called Gabrielle at her home after school hours to make certain that she was doing well. Mrs. Atkins was surprised when Ms. Hale delivered the letter, as she had not expected anything from anybody. She recalled that it had brightened her day immensely knowing that students had given out thank-you letters and that she had been given one.

“The most heartfelt thing about it is that I never would have dreamed that Gabrielle appreciated me in the way that she did. I had no clue. Once it was brought to my attention, I realized anytime I would see her in classes she would always speak up or have a big, sincere smile,” revealed Atkins. “I also became closer to Ms. Hale because I appreciated her so much for having her class to do that activity. I felt like this generation of students no longer did handwritten thank-you notes due to computers and social media that are now taking the place of so many things.”

One student, Melody King, wrote directly to Ms. Hale herself.

“I wrote about how she was one of the few who wanted to work with me, and that she changed my view on the public school system,” Melody divulged.

Upon receiving this letter, Melody expressed that Ms. Hale teared up and hugged her in response.

“It was relieving to be able to give thanks for what I’ve been given,” elucidated Melody.

Though writing these letters was a last minute decision, Ms. Hale’s hope is that this brought smiles to the faces of teachers and students alike, and that this will become a yearly tradition.

“Sometimes we need to be reminded of the impact we have on our students,” explained Hale. “Teaching and working in a school environment can be extremely challenging, but, more often than not, it is also extremely rewarding.”

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