Sometimes, we just need to take a step back and regroup.

By Victoria Jasztal on September 9, 2009

One year ago today was one of the most difficult days of my teaching career. It was a day of immense grief- a student from my first class was killed instantly in an early morning accident.

Kaitlyn was thirteen years old and in the eighth grade. What stood out about this student was that she was a sensational writer and artist. It was her prerogative to be a unique individual. In my class and the years following, she aspired to be a writer. When I attended her funeral a few days after her passing, it was one of the most emotional events of my life because I was able to see so much of what she had accomplished in the three and a half years after "graduating" from my fourth grade class. Her incredible stories and intricately detailed works of art were on display. The people who came to honor her life were intrigued. Most importantly, she had grown so deeply to be a wonderful young woman, respected by many of her teachers and peers.

A few months later, she was honored at our district's art ceremony by our school's art teacher. For three years, a huge sculpture of a "turtle duck" she had made out of papier mache had been on display in our school's art room.

My heart reaped for a while after her passing and again today as I thought about how much every student I have taught has had a positive impact on my life. After going through the experience of losing one of my very first students, I have realized even more since then that you have to "embrace" the essence of every child you teach. We as teachers are blessed to be in a profession that can profoundly impact lives.

Today, I was originally planning an entry about peace, September 11th, and anti-bullying, but I feel I need another week to prepare it for you. Before next Wednesday, I plan on taking photos of my students making pinwheels in art class for Pinwheels for Peace, uploading a few spectacular podcasts we are recording in class, and including the beginning excerpt of a chapter book I wrote last year that fits the theme perfectly. Sometimes we need to take a few extra days to make something spectacular.

I will finish by showing you a few reasons why I became a teacher. I just never realized before entering the classroom that teaching would be this amazing.

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Threeboys

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Without the six years of students I have taught, I would certainly not be the same person I am today. Kaitlyn, you are dearly missed.

Comments

Thank you for sharing your post! I look forward to receiving my degree to become a Speech Language Pathologist. I will definitely remember your words someday to "embrace the essense of each and every child you teach." We should defininitly be blessed to have the opportunity to help individuals and make a difference in their lives!

... Thank you very much, Kayla. What will be amazing about your job is that you get to see so many kids grow up over the years! Keep visiting us at Scholastic- I appreciate your comment! - Victoria

Your post was very touching! Thanks for sharing!

... You're welcome. Kaitlyn will always remain in my heart. It is very, very difficult to lose a student- even four years later, your mind is still filled with so many memories!

Gayle, I was originally feeling very optimistic about that post that week... and then I thought about the accident and couldn't write about anything else. She is someone I will always treasure in my memories, and I know this accident will not easily leave my mind. It changed so many things about me as a teacher- it made me appreciate the small things even more than before. - Victoria

Thank you for sharing. I also had a first grade student who was shot by accident. It is a traumatic experience for a teacher and for the class. My experience happened about 10 years ago and I still think of the little girl and her family often.

What a moving tribute to your student. I know how much my students have meant to me over the years and how much I have learned from them!

... Certainly- thank you for your response. Hearing about the accident was heart-wrenching. Obviously I did not go into more detail here, but it changed my life. - Victoria

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