An Author's Odyssey (The Land of Stories #5) - Chris Colfer Page 0,1

retiring, we all know I would never have been hired.”

Mrs. Peters wiped her glasses to distract the guests from the tears forming in her eyes. Had it not been for this reception, she might never have acknowledged to herself all the differences she had made in so many lives.

“Now, please join me in a toast,” Dr. Mitchell said, and raised his glass. “To Evelyn Peters, thank you for inspiring and teaching us all. Willow Crest Unified School District won’t be the same without you.”

Everyone in the hall raised their glasses to toast Mrs. Peters. When they finished, Mrs. Peters took the microphone and raised her glass back at them.

“Now, please allow me to say a few words,” she said. “My late husband was also a teacher, and he gave me the best advice one educator could give to another. So, I would like to pass it along to you in case this is my last chance.”

Everyone in the hall sat on the edge of their seats, especially the teachers.

“As teachers, we must not guide our students to become the people we wish them to be, but elevate them to become the people they were meant to be. Remember, the encouragement we give our students may be the only encouragement they ever receive, so don’t use it sparingly. After twenty-five years of teaching grammar school and my brief administration experience, I can assure you my husband was absolutely right. And since that is the best lesson I can teach you, I’ll say for the last time, class dismissed.”

The conclusion of her speech was met with a standing ovation. After a few moments of applause Mrs. Peters urged the guests to sit, but it only made them cheer louder for her.

The lights were dimmed and a screen was lowered. Dr. Mitchell and Mrs. Peters took their seats and watched as group photos of Mrs. Peters’s classes were projected, starting with her very first sixth-grade class from almost thirty years before. As the slide show commenced, the former students laughed at their eleven-and twelve-year-old selves and the ridiculous hairstyles and clothes they had sported in earlier decades. Especially noted was how little Mrs. Peters had changed over the years. In every picture the educator’s hair, glasses, and floral dresses were exactly the same. It was as if Mrs. Peters were frozen in time while the world changed around her.

The slide show made Mrs. Peters more emotional than anything else that night. It was like watching a family album flash before her eyes. She remembered the name of each face she saw. Most of the students she still knew personally or she knew what they had gone on to become, but there were a few she had lost contact with completely. It was a painful feeling to have been so close to a child at one point, then later to feel as if they had disappeared into thin air.

Mrs. Peters’s students were the closest thing to children she had ever had. She hoped they were all happy and healthy, wherever they were. If she was no longer a staple of compassion and guidance in their lives, she hoped they had found someone who was.

“Evelyn?” Dr. Mitchell whispered.

Mrs. Peters still found it strange for a former student to address her by her first name—even if he was the superintendent.

“Yes, Dr. Mitchell?” she whispered back.

“Did you ever have a favorite student?” he asked with a grin. “I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, but is there one child who stands out to you? Besides me, of course.”

Mrs. Peters had never thought about such a thing.