To all the teachers who have inspired me

Letters to all the teachers who’ve stuck with me through the years


Graphic | Meggie Chen

One of my favorite memories from elementary school was when Ms.G made homemade ice cream out of fresh strawberries for us.

Meggie Chen

To all the teachers who’ve inspired me before


Ms. G,

You were my first teacher after I moved to Cupertino in second grade. And I’ll admit it: I was kind of a brat in elementary school. So full of myself and overconfident, yet shy and unsure of my place in a new school with new people. How you ever came to like me as a student is beyond me, but I am so glad you did. I remember constantly fighting with another student in your class, but you’d never make me just sit down and apologize. You’d actually listen to me explain our (frankly stupid) reasons for arguing – I remember there was a time I argued I could make a longer flower chain than them and thereby started a two-month feud that involved half the class, three meter sticks and a LOT of dead flowers – before you calmly explained  to us that we should always respect someone else’s opinions, and let us apologize on our own terms.

Do you want to know one of my favorite memories from elementary school? It was sweltering outside during the last couple of weeks of school during third grade. You sent a classmate and me to get the yearbooks, and when we stepped back into the classroom, you were busy making homemade strawberry ice cream. We each got a scoop that day and got to put as many sprinkles and fresh strawberries on it as we wanted. That is how I remember you – sticky hands, rainbow sprinkles and melting ice cream on my tongue, cool and strawberry sweet.


Ms. W,

On my first day of middle school, you introduced yourself as Mrs. Yu, an eighth-grade language arts teacher, and said that if we were in the wrong classroom we should go and find our real first period class so we wouldn’t be late. I can only imagine how ridiculous we looked, eyes wide and hands scrambling for bags, so it’s no surprise that you couldn’t hold your laughter as some kids whispered various profanities and others looked on in horror. You told us later that you called yourself  “Yu” for “I pranked you,” and I think that’s when you won the whole class over, even the rowdier boys. 

Our class threw a surprise party for Ms.W in seventh grade both as an excuse to eat cake and also as a sort of thank you for being such an amazing teacher in sixth grade.

I remember all of our holiday parties, how we’d watch Dreamworks movies that you somehow managed to connect back to our curriculum, how there’d always be cake and pizza and never enough napkins. You told us that the day you disliked a student would be the day you stopped teaching, and I will never forget that (you also told us to #fakeittilyoumakeit and I’ll never forget that either).

So perhaps it wasn’t so much a surprise when we threw you a surprise birthday party in seventh grade – the whole class, mind you – organizing it in a flurry of Google spreadsheets, and you booted everyone else out of the room and we spent the lunch period eating pizza and cheap cake from Costco, laughing about all the stupid things we had done in sixth grade. You told us that we “shouldn’t have” and that you were “going to cry,” but let me tell you, we’d throw you a birthday party a thousand times over because you would have done the same for us.


Mr. H,

You had terrible dad jokes, you know? But they were so bad they were good, and I still remember basically all of them. You were my orchestra teacher for all three years of middle school, so I think I was bound to like you. All that outside time and energy (and the money you spent on snacks for our rehearsals) showed your genuine care for us. That trip to Midwest Clinic in seventh grade? Hands down one of the best trips I ever had in middle school. 

Mr. H’s dad jokes were always really bad, but they never failed to make us laugh.

I remember at the end of our seventh-grade year, you said you were going to be involuntarily transferred to another school. There were a lot of tears, all puffy eyes and crumpled tissues that day. I remember sitting on a stool in your room after school that same week while talking to my classmates about how we should petition to keep you here. We mentioned it as a joke, but then we actually did it.

All of us, every single person who’d ever cared about Kennedy orchestras, protested; we went to school board meetings, made petitions, talked to parents at performances (that was nerve-wracking) and even sent emails to the superintendent. And somehow, miraculously, it worked. You stayed, and I think that’s a testament to how much you’ve impacted the orchestra community and grown our love for music, and also to how much we cared for you as our teacher. 


Ms. S,

I think you know who you are. In fact, you’re going to read this at one point or another. I don’t think I want to say that much, because I do still see you at school and I want to be able to look you in the eye and not cringe back in the face of my sappiness and sentimentality. But you’ve done so much for me that it feels wrong not to mention this in one way or the other. 

So I’ll keep it short – thank you so much for being understanding of our other commitments and being so flexible. You’ve never made me feel judged for my opinions or beliefs or for not knowing something, yet also somehow managed to push me to try and do better, both academically and just as a human being. You’re someone I’ll remember for a long, long time, and I can’t wait to see how the next couple of years are going to go.


I don’t think most of you will ever actually read this, but that wasn’t really the point. Did you know I’ve kept every thank you card any of you have ever given me? I keep them in a sturdy box shoved in the back of my closet, and every once in a while, I pull them out and read all of them, and it never fails to make me feel better, so I thought it was only fair that I wrote out some too. I’m pulling all of these letters out of my own metaphorical hatbox for the world to see. Either way, just know that I am glad every day that I got to have you as my teacher.

Forever thankful,

Meggie Chen