April 14, 2010

Teachers Can Make Such A Difference

This story is widely circulated as true. Some versions list Teddy's name as Stoddart.
This was sent to me in an email and I checked it out.

The story was written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard and published in Home Life magazine in 1976. It was not represented as being a true story but rather as a piece of fiction. It was later republished in the magazine with the notation that it was one of the most requested stories in the magazine's history.

"As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very
first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most
teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all
the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row,
slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and
noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his
clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition,
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 his papers.

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 struggle.'

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Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, 'Teddy is withdrawn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, 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 the 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 pets.'

A year later, she found a note under her door, from
Teddy, telling her that she was 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 life

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 had 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. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet
another letter that spring. Teddy said he had 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 at
the wedding in the place 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. Moreover, 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 know how to teach until I met


LL Cool Joe said...

Wow what a powerful story. Makes me want to be a better parent to my kids. I'm not sure I tell them enough that I believe in them, and encourage them to believe in themselves too.


Gappy said...

This is why I love your blog.

In a sea of posts, yours stand out and make me stop and reflect.

Cinner said...

What an absolutely beautiful story, it is amazing how one can change someones life just by believing in them. I love this post and I always love coming here for a visit. Your kind words have meant a lot to me.
Take care and have a great day.

Shadowthorne @ Ramzu Zahini said...

As a human, I was moved by the story. Yes, sometimes we didn't know why children act the way they did.

But as a teacher, I've seen children so vicious and parents so ignorant, you wouldn't believe your eyes. The modern world has corrupted many.

So as a person who the different angles in life, I just try to save those youngsters who wanna change their future. The terminally broken, we usually let them burn.

Sad but true.

Shadowthorne @ Ramzu Zahini said...

Oh and anyway, I never said THE untruth like Mrs. Thompson did.

All I always said was; Make me happy (by being nice and polite children, oh and pass my papers too) and I will make you happy too.

Harsh, but A LOT of students get the idea.

Brian Miller said...

yeah it is a beautiful story. love it when teaches take what they do to the next level. they write their names in your history when they do. i can think of a few off the top of my head that shaped my life...

Shadow said...

this brought tears to my eyes.

Lola Sharp said...

I've received this via email many times, but it still brings tears to my eyes. Every time.

Teachers can have a huge impact on our lives. (both good and bad) A couple of good ones saved my life.

Thanks for sharing.

Big Dave T said...

Knowing a couple teachers, I know how easy cynicism sets in with them after years of dealing with unruly, uncaring children and overdemanding parents. Your story reminds us that there can be moments of inspiration as well.

Scarlet Blue said...

I now have the sniffs.
Thank you for sharing.

TechnoBabe said...

LL Cool Joe, I am so glad this post reached into your parent heart. Hugs to your children.

Gappy, my dear. You make me reflect so much on your blog too!!

Hi Cinner, I think you probably change lives on your blog with your stories of inspiration.

Shadowthorne, my friend, I knew you would have an inside view with your teaching experience. Thanks for your honest and open comment.

Yo Brian, You should write about your teachers. I would be interested in your experiences.

Shadow, You of the humongous heart and gift of words! I am always happy to have a post that brings out the tenderness in people I care about.

Lola, you are a survivor too and I am so glad you had teachers who made a difference in your life.

Hello Dave, I know some teachers get burnt out. Maybe teachers need a chance to leave that profession long enough to learn new skills and get refreshed and if they want to, return to teaching. I think you should write a post about this.

Scarlet Blue, always glad when you come by. I will send you some kleenex. You always make me laugh so much on your blog, I keep kleenex around for that!

Jeanie said...

The title of your post says it all.
Teachers can, indeed, make a difference...a BIG difference.

Jana said...


DJan said...

You certainly hit a nerve with this post, judging by all the comments. I know many elementary school teachers who can attest to the difference they have made in the lives of their students. But Shadowthorne is correct, too. There are years that stand out in some teachers' lives as being almost unbearable because of certain children. Or parents.

Vicky said...

It seems that I found the perfect day to come over and say hello after your gracious comment on my blog. I've received this in an email too, but it gets me every time. Thanks for the reminder!

Ina in Alaska said...

That was just fantastic. One person can made a difference. xoxo

Sassy Pants Freckle Face said...

Thxs Techno, for the tears in my coffee, you horrid lady ;)
It is so true,... I had an 3 amazing teachers in school, I still remember their names, they are why I started teaching,.. then I got knocked up,..:)

laughingwolf said...

exactly what happens when we 'rush to judgment'... great post

Sheri said...

I love this story, it made me get a few tears too even. :) Thanks for sharing with all of us!

Kazzy said...

I am a special ed teacher, and your story was very powerful for me. Thanks so much.

TechnoBabe said...

Jeanie, Yes, teachers can make a difference, good or bad.

Jana, you scamp, I got the tag and it will be on this blog in a couple days.

DJan, I think being a teacher today is much more difficult than when I was a young student. So many distractions and disappointments today.

Vicky, thanks for the comment. Nice to see you here.

Ina, you and I both know how much one person can make a difference.

Sassy! Knocked up in your case started a trend, didn't it? You are a great mama.

laughingwolf, you are so right.

Sheri, join the sentimental club my dear. Tears are good sometimes, aren't they?

Kazzy, I admire you all the more that you are a special ed teacher.

Jason, as himself said...

"On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and
arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children"

As a teacher, this has got to be one of the most powerful ideas. This really is WHY I became a teacher. Sometimes, though, it can be so easy to lose sight of this.

Thanks for the reminder!

Kristina P. said...

I have read this story before, and always loved it.

Yankee Girl said...

That is a beautiful story. I know I have read it before, but it always brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it today!

TechnoBabe said...

Jason, teacher extraordinaire, so glad this post is a help and encouragement to you.

Kristina, thanks for stopping here. I just heard this story. Where have I been???

Yankee Girl, I so love it when readers are warm hearted and receive the gift of caring in one of my posts.

Charlie said...

A wonderful story that brought a tear to my eye. Thanks so much for posting it.

Syd said...

What an awesome post. Thanks for sharing this. I know just who I will share it with.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Did anybody click on the "checked it out" link in the first paragraph? Apparently not... the story is FALSE. There is no Teddy Stoddard, it is a made up story.

There are so many true instances of wonderful teachers inspiring kids to be their best. I can think of several from my life. But nothing tugs at our heart strings more compellingly than a contrived piece of fiction... be it from Paul Harvey or a Holy Book.

Ronda Laveen said...

Gosh, this one brought tears to my eyes. Even though it's been around for a while, I'd never read it. Thanks.

Life with Kaishon said...

It makes me sad to know that it isn't real. I love it anyway though. So nice.

secret agent woman said...

I figured that was a Snopes link - good for you for checking it for accuracy.

Still, as a piece of fiction it is powerful and the "truth" of it lies more in the countless experiences where the student teaches the teacher and both benefit from the relationship.

TechnoBabe said...

Charlie, you have such a tender heart.

Syd, yes please do share this story with everyone.

Robert, this story is definitely fiction.

Ronda, you are welcome.

Life With Kaishon, I agree with you, knowing this story is fiction does not remove its impact.

secret agent woman, I always check a story sent to me in emails for fact or fiction. I'm glad you see the import of the story.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a beautiful story! It made me cry, and I am far too macho to do that very often. It also made me think about how we all make more of a difference than we know, so we should be very sure that it is a difference for the better.

Kathy M. said...

What a great story. I so wanted it to be true. But I suspect that in a larger sense, it represents truth with a capital T, as all good work of fiction does. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown Mami said...

Great story and even if it is not true, there is truth in it.

terri said...

That is a beautiful story and a very poignant lesson.

jill said...

I've seen this before, but reading it again I still got a tear in my eye.

Spencer L Casey said...

Aw Damn, I'm such a girl... sniff...

Brosreview said...

A very good message here

Anonymous said...

I read this a long time ago. It's true every person that comes in our lives can make a difference and we hope and pray for luck that those people bless us with their faith and wisdom. Very beautiful message.

Yousei Hime said...

I am clenching my teeth trying not to cry. This is a portrait of my mother and of the teacher I wish I had been. Perhaps I will be some day. Thank you so much for sharing this with me.

I agree that poetry is not simple at all, at least not with this one. It was a tricky assignment, but I like it in this rough form. Thanks for reading it.

James said...

Thanks for the nice comment. I love Paris. I usually go in late Jan to mid Feb. It's a little cold but there are no crowds. This year I'm going in the fall.

Stacy (the Random Cool Chick) said...

Very powerful story - I have tears on my cheeks! :) Teachers really can make a difference.

Dave King said...

Great story. I have no difficulty in believing it true. I know these thin gs happen.

LadyFi said...

I'm sobbing my eyes out... Even if it is not literally true, the essence of it is so very very true!


Claire said...

thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting when beth guest posted.

it really meant a lot.

this story... it reminds me of a few teachers that crossed my schooling pathway.

lisleman said...

that's a powerful story. don't be too quick to judge. In fact we judge people more than we should.

willow said...

Teachers can make such an impact, and I love it when it's a positive one!

Yousei Hime said...

About my latest poems: I dislike preachy poetry, so I tried to speak through symbolism. I just hope it wasn't heavy handed. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. The haiku was steamy, wasn't it. Funny how spur of the moment things can turn out. Happy you came by.

Joanna Jenkins said...

It only take a moment to realize the difference a person can make in a child's life. I wish more people took the time to SEE and HEAR children so they could help like this teacher did. Thanks for sharing.

Hope all is well with you Techno.


Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Thank-you for this. I haven't heard the story before, but it is enough to get through the rest of the school year and then some.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

I have read this one...but it is simply beautiful...and I'm sooo glad you posted it! Everyone should read this!!! Thank you on behalf of teachers EVERYWHERE!!!! Love, Janine Xo

jozien said...

Beautiful story indeed. It gets me right in the mood of reading my favorite blogs again, which i do love equally, just some of them more than others :)

anne h said...

Loved the story.
Love the way you tell it!

Hope said...

I have always liked this story.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story - thanks so much for sharing this. I have a similar teacher in my life. She taught me in the 2nd grade and was a huge influence...we continue to be in touch even today. She's over 70 now, and recently I made sure I told her what she meant to me.

Thanks so much for stopping by yesterday - through your comment I found your blog, and I really like what you write!