Dear First Grade Teacher,

I must confess that you do not know me well, and you may think it strange that I am writing this letter to you. However, I do know you, at least on a secondary level. I am not referring to the time that we ran into each other in the teachers’ room when we were both quickly heating up our lunches. Yes, we did speak briefly, but I know you because of my current students, and the thumbprint that you have left on their educational career. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for promoting literacy in your classroom. The impact that you have made on my current students is profound and obvious. It has influenced my classroom for the better. I once heard it said that it is important that we praise others specifically, so find a quiet space and a comfortable chair, grab a cup of your favorite hot or cold beverage, and enjoy my accolades of your amazing, purposeful teaching.

Thank you for encouraging the students every step of the way through their introduction to literacy. I heard a saying recently, that when working with students we should look for progress not perfection. I cannot imagine the patience that it took to go over each sound, letter, and blend with the students. I know when they were first learning basic words, some students were sounding out each word letter by letter. You knew to encourage them profusely for remembering some (maybe not all) of their letter sounds, for trying, and for making any type of progress. This helped motivate them to keep trying when things became difficult. You helped to establish a powerful rapport that motivated the students to be the best that they could be!

I recently just started a unit on energy for science. This concept is quite foreign for most students due to their lack of background knowledge. However, because you spent time reading various genres with the children in reading groups, my students have some prior knowledge of the subject. This provided me with a foundation to build on. The class was engaged and hungry to learn. Thank you for this gift of allowing me to “hit the ground running” with the unit.

When I was visiting the lower elementary wing a few weeks ago, I so enjoyed walking past your classroom. I heard you passionately reading to your students, and I decided to come in and watch you. I was immediately mesmerized and drawn into the imagination of one of the best authors of all time! Not only did you demonstrate to the class how to properly interact with a book, but you also used different voices, tones, pauses and stops that helped build suspense. The class was so engaged and interested in the story that when the bell rang for the students to go to library class, many of the students said “NO, not yet!” You left off at a cliffhanger and demonstrated suspense to the class without saying a word!

When I took time to further reflect on your teaching, I noticed that you were advertising reading for the class. You showed them what an amazing gift comes at the end of their journey if they stick with it–the joy of fluent reading, of understanding, and of relating to a book. When I peeked into their library class, I heard many students requesting the very book that you read to them or books by the same author! Well played, my friend! I think all of your students have been bitten by the lifetime reader bug, thanks to you.

I was talking to one of my current student’s parents. They brought you up and shared with me how wonderful you are. They said that you worked very specifically with their child who was (at the time) a struggling reader. You made specific goals for their child, shared those goals with the parents, encouraged both parents and student along the journey, and stayed in close touch to notify the family of the progress. Now, that child loves reading, volunteers to read in class, offers to help other students that struggle with reading, and I even caught her reading a novel when she was asked to do another task.

Your hard work to achieve the goal to have every student that walks into your classroom to become a lifelong reader is evident! Thank you for taking the time to understand each reader specifically and to encourage that child to be an overcomer, all with a big beautiful smile on your face.

Thank you for not losing track of the goal and always seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I am sure there were days that you felt that the task ahead of you was so great, but you persevered, and now look at the fruit of your labor!

Thank you for all that you do to support learning!

Best regards,

An Upper Elementary Teacher

Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

Fran Turuta currently teaches at Smithtown Christian School which is located on Long Island, NY. She has worked as a camp counselor, a tutor, and a classroom teacher. She has over 20 years of experience and has taught 4th, 3rd, 5th, and 1st grades. She is a wife and a mother and enjoys standup paddle boarding, running, baking, and reading.