Gladys Acosta-Melendez's Learning Story


I was lucky to have had some great teachers. However, one stands out in my mind and in my heart because she helped me through a very difficult time in my life. She was my speech and drama teacher in high school. She was caring, intelligent, and did not accept failure. She taught us to observe and listen carefully to all sides of an issue. She was a model of eloquent language. She promoted reading and the arts. She went to all lengths to take us on field trips that changed our perspectives on life. She used her own money to enhance our learning experiences. Of course I did not know this at the time.I lost my father to a rare kidney disease and I was devastated when he passed. I had been kept in the dark about the seriousness of his illness and his passing was a shock. I missed school for about two weeks because, to make matters worse, my mother became very depressed and I felt that I had to stay home to take care of her. This teacher called me every day at home. She guided me to help my mom and I was able to return to school. She gave me extra assignments to make up for the time that I had missed. She bought me a journal and told me to write to my dad when I felt sad and needed speak with him. She helped me to cope with the pain but she also encouraged me to work harder to reach my goals.I learned later that she was quite wealthy and really did not need to teach or work at all. In those days teachers got paid very little. She taught because she had an art, an innate talent to motivate and to teach difficult material in a simple way. She was cultured and treated us with great respect and fairness. She never underestimated our abilities and was always willing to offer us the extra help.I think about her all the time. We corresponded way into my college years and lost touch when I was in my senior year at college. I believe that had she not intervened I may have dropped out of school to brood and feel sorry for myself. I have tried to emulate some of the strategies she used on me with some of my students. In my book she was a bright guiding star. She has been my one most important role model. I hope she knows that she was very special to me and so many other students. Every class was challenging, interesting and made me feel that what I was learning would always come in handy someday and it has.