I’ve been experiencing a lot of gratitude over the last few days, and it is all directed towards one person.

My fourth-grade teacher.

I shared a shorter version of this on my LinkedIn profile, but once again I felt as though the 1,300-character limit just wasn’t enough to express how thankful I am to have crossed paths with Mrs. Clulow in 1988, and as it turns out, again in 2017.

A Quick Background

For a large chunk of the 1980s, my family and I lived in Michigan. For whatever reason, going to school was a huge problem for me. I was a constant disruption in the classroom, and my grades suffered because of it. I was C-level at best, with some D’s and F’s sprinkled in.

It was horrendous.

I was always getting sick in class, no doubt because of the stress. Perhaps I clowned around and was disruptive to offset that pressure?

At one point I even established my own “playground gang” to scare this new kid from Kentucky who didn’t like me. My crew lasted one recess before the bell forced us to disband permanently.

My third-grade teacher had enough of me, so much so that she wanted to retain me for another year. I was headed in the wrong direction, and fast.

But my mom, knowing that a school system change might be the answer to my academic ills, talked her into letting me move onto fourth grade.

And thank goodness she did. Thanks, mom!

Moving On

Upon moving back to our hometown of Fremont, Ohio, I met my new teacher, Mrs. Clulow. She had been teaching for years, and even as a 10-year-old, I could immediately see that she was a kind, caring soul. Little did I know, though, that the school year ahead would see her work some serious magic.

After years of languishing in terrible grades, Mrs. Clulow showed the patience and care I needed. She pushed all the right buttons to get me to tackle new subjects with everything I had.

And the best part is, she was always open to talk after school — even if it was for fun. By the time all the other kids had long gone home, a few of us would ultimately stick around to hang out. How many people can say they connected so well with a teacher that they stayed after school *by choice*?

Timing Is Everything

Little did I know at the time, but the 1988-89 school year would be Mrs. Clulow’s final one. It’s quite a blessing that with all of the combined years she and I have been on the planet, we managed to connect for that one transformative year. It’s a bit cliche to say, but that’s like winning the lottery.

Our Visit

Fast-forward to 2017. For at least the last 20 years I’ve wanted to check in with Mrs. Clulow and see how things have been. But, as we all know life often becomes filled with distractions. Now 96 years-old, she and I had a chance to catch up recently on a trip back to Fremont for a class reunion.

Wouldn’t you know it she hasn’t changed one bit!

Mrs. Clulow is as sharp as a tack and even remembers when my mom and I visited her classroom before the school year fired up. I updated her on life since the early 90s, showed her pictures of my family and talked about headshot photography. I got to meet her son, an experienced photographer; her caretakers; and former neighbors who, come to find out, I’m related to on my dad’s side. It’s a small world.

We laughed and told stories like it was 1988 all over again. I’m not always the “drop-in” type when it comes to visiting people, but this reconnection meant the world to me, and I was delighted to have had the opportunity. Many thanks to her daughter for helping to put this together.

We are looking forward to staying in touch going forward with notes and photos of the kids, by e-mail if you can believe it.