In 1986, my sophomore year of high school, I was assigned to a 4th period state- mandated speech course. I wasn’t that nervous about it- either because it hadn’t occurred to me to be nervous or (more likely) because I already realized that talking in public wasn’t really that much of a problem for me. I figured this for an easy A.Then I walked into the classroom. First- it was in the home ec kitchen. (I know- it’s Family & Consumer Sciences now. Then? It was Home Ec.) Second- the room was loaded with “popular” kids. Girls and boys who were the sharks to my sea plankton in the social ecosystem of high school. I was suddenly terrified- and I turned around and left the room without even dropping my books- instead, I dropped the class.The only other speech class available was forensics- which I assumed to have something to do with dead bodies. Didn’t matter, though. If it would get me out of that speech class, I’d dissect anything they wanted me to. I signed up.That moment was the moment that changed my life. In that class, I discovered not only a new peer group but also a teacher who valued me for what I brought to the table- not for what I lacked as a student or a member of the social strata. Trudy Kinman seemed to be genuinely interested in what we had to say. She seemed to know that by knowing us well, she could help us to perform at our best. I pushed myself for the first time in that class. I did more than what was required because I discovered the value of excellence, of showing what I knew and could do. I learned that I could excel- and that it was really fun when I did!I later became a teacher myself- speech and debate, as a matter of fact- and while I’m not currently teaching, I *am* using what Trudy taught me. Everyday, in fact, I demonstrate that drive to be my best educational self, that joy in doing good quality work, and the inherent rewards to be found in excellence. Thanks Trudy.