On the first day of preschool, my mom brought me into KinderCare, and asked if I wanted her to stay or leave. I told her she could leave, confident that I was going to be okay. I then proceeded to stand in the corner, watching other kids play with their parents, and choking back tears wishing I had asked her to stay. But I was ready. I wanted to play and learn and be a kid that goes to school without fear, and thus my journey began.
I am about to do the most important thing in my life. I consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to do this, and I do not take lightly the sacrifices my family has made so I can do this. Graduating college has been my biggest dream for a very long time. There is no inspirational story here about a huge obstacle I had to overcome to get here. I have loved school for most of my life, and even on my darkest days, I have wanted to keep going. But that perseverance was instilled in me from the people who greeted me at the doors of each institution—to those who taught me, thank you.
To Mrs. Terri Olexa, who was the first mother I had away from my home. Who put care and compassion into our kindergarten classroom while cultivating young minds. Thank you for being there when a boy punched me in the stomach.
To Mrs. Dawn Santello, who gave me my first shot at being a leader. Who listened when an ambitious six-year-old told her, “I have ideas for the classroom.” Thank you for nurturing my earliest inclinations toward excellence.
To Mrs. Betty Smith, who allowed me to say “This is too easy.” Thank you for giving me space to push myself, and thank you for pushing me.
To Mrs. Liz Seipp, my first cool teacher, who understood that sometimes third graders think they’re really cool. I thought I was really cool. Thank you for making the classroom a welcoming community for everyone.
To Mrs. Leanne DeTample and Mrs. Annie Overton, a pregnant teacher and her replacement, who combined to show me the importance of adapting quickly. Thank you for teaching me about science and entrepreneurship and making it an adventure.
To Mrs. Jane Fetter, who is to this day the reason I know every state and every capital. Thank you for creating a classroom full of versatility from macaroni brains to weaving on a loom.
To Mrs. Alice Keffer, who kept it real no matter what. Thank you for introducing me to journalism, and the important struggle of math.
To Mrs. Maureen Mutinsky, who ingrained everything I know about grammar. Thank you for taking the time and impressing the importance of commas and apostrophes.
To Mr. Scott Kleinman, who was the first Vikings fan I ever knew, and who brought my dad into the classroom. Thank you for that memory, and thank you for teaching me percentages.
To Mrs. Joan McCloughan, who taught me about Mesopotamia, and how to take good notes. Thank you for being the first historian I knew.
To Mrs. Jessica Heller, who turned Kool-Aid into a science experiment. Thank you for hands on learning.
To Mrs. Amy Van Treuren, who gave me the space to ask more questions, learn more, and investigate. Thank you for going above and beyond. Thank you for treating an 11 year old like a person, and letting me be myself. Thank you for being a friend.
To Ms. Maria Przechacki, who saw me as a preschooler and again as a tween. Thank you for growing with me. And thank you for the bikes.
To Madam Baille, who did not have it easy from me or my classmates. Merci pour votre patience (Yes, I used Google Translate).
To Mrs. Jo Ann Groeger, who was so passionate about health and fitness. Who always practiced what she preached. Thank you for having fun and loving what you do.
To Ms. Sara Hyer, who navigated a rowdy classroom with grace and focus. Thank you for refusing to give up on me no matter how many times I tried.
To Mr. Tim Prugar, who taught me to love history, question everything, and reach higher. Who challenged me every day to think for myself and back up my theories. Who gave me space to heal when I needed it more than anything. Thank you for caring beyond your duty.
To Ms. Nicole Revere, who was relatable. Who understood the struggle of being 14, but never let that get in the way of learning. Thank you for giving us a break.
To Mrs. Jenny Kessler, who is still a mystery to me. Who might be the coolest teacher I’ve had. Thank you for bringing me into art, and remaining critical with a sly smile.
To Mr. David Kelly, who was a character. Thank you for letting me shine as brightly as I wanted.
To Mr. Daniel Van Lieu, who had the most hilarious classroom I’d be in before college. Who never took himself too seriously. Who saw the curriculum, and said there are missing narratives. Thank you for going off script, and teaching me how to write a single moment.
To Mrs. Lisa Quarry, who trusted my ambition, and harnessed my drive. Who didn’t shy away from bringing down the hammer, but never judged anyone in light of it. Thank you for introducing me to yearbook.
To my sign language teachers, who had probably the most difficult classrooms I’ve ever been in. Thank you for showing me the importance of accessibility.
To Mrs. Milissa Neirotti, who was always clear and ran her classroom like a tight ship. Thank you for never letting me fall behind.
To the Colonel, Mr. Charles O’Brien, who scared me, but who has such a kind heart. Thank you for seeing my potential when I lost sight of it. Thank you for teaching me the importance of attention to detail.
To Mrs. Lynn McNulty, who is an incredible historian. Who was the first teacher to bring world news to world history. I’m sorry I didn’t give you my best, but thank you for giving me yours.
To Mrs. Julie Davis, who gave me my second shot at geometry. Thank you for making math fun, while being one of the most brilliant women I know.
To Mr. Gary Brown, who really tried to motivate me, when I didn’t want to. I’m sorry I slept in your class every day. Thank you for trying regardless.
To Señorita Noelia Straight, who endured. Thank you for welcoming me into the world of Spanish.
To Mr. Marty Hoban, who was different than most of the teachers at Hun. Thank you for being yourself at a place that often made it really really hard.
To Mrs. Cheryl Beal, who displayed a passion for literature and its place in the arts. Thank you for your openness to teaching how we wanted to learn.
To Señora Melissa Dorfman, who always cheered me on in the classroom or the halls. Gracias para todo quatro años.
To Mr. Ryan Hews, who felt passionately about student-centered learning. Who taught unfiltered the parts of American history many others sugarcoat. Thank you for bringing history to life in a real way.
To Mr. Bob Groover, who also struggled to get me to want to learn in his classroom. Thank you for not giving up on me, when I gave up on myself.
To Mr. Matt Ator, who was the new kid when we met. Thank you for pushing me, despite my contempt for Algebra.
To Mrs. Joan Roux, who is elegance and intellect embodied. Thank you for insisting that my writing be better.
To Señora Jennifer Mitchell, who may have caught the last of my teenage angst. Thank you for your patience and for giving me a chance anyway.
To Mr. Allan Arp, who was always a friendly face. Thank you for teaching me how to paint, and about color, and thank you for not letting me give up after one try.
To Mr. Tim Pitts, who was on his way out when he taught me. Who packed a huge punch into a semester-long course. Who taught me to question my government, and my politics. Thank you for being always groovy.
To Ms. Aruna Chavali, who would be my last science teacher. Who showed me the importance of empowering women, who empowered me. Who was always authentic. Thank you for teaching me about force in more ways than one.
To Mr. Aaron Bogad, who let me be a diva for a moment. Thank you for showing me the importance of political art when I didn’t even fully understand it.
To Mr. Ryan Brown, who should teach everyone math. Who is unbelievably intelligent and multifaceted and humble. Thank you for your approachability, and thank you for helping me get it.
To Dr. Lucie Knight-Santos (أستاذ), who is one of the most impressive teachers I’ve had. Who taught me something completely new with immeasurable patience. Thank you for boldly bringing me into a whole new world (not ~totally~ meant to be an Aladdin allusion).
To Mr. Jonathan Stone, who would be my final math teacher. Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone.
To Mrs. Lisa Yacomelli, who is simply a fun person. Who brought context to literature, and helped it make sense. Thank you for bringing me Frankenstein and teaching me how to dance.
To Mrs. Rachel Cooper, who has such a gentle spirit. I’m sorry senioritis hit me hardest in your class. Thank you for being flexible and versatile.
To Mrs. Radha Mishra, who believed in me, and listened to me, and wanted me to succeed. Thank you for helping me do just that.
To Mrs. Heather Walsh, who empowered me and trained me in the world of journalism. Thank you for never ceasing to support me no matter the deadline.
To Mrs. Jessica Brimmer, who took on a role in an incredibly challenging moment. Thank you for never shying away from that while allowing me to continue to be a leader.
To Mr. David Bush, from whom I am lucky to have learned. Who never fails to bring a smile to my face. Who taught me to get my hands dirty, to look at things differently, to go against the current. Who is so much more than an educator. Thank you for bringing me into art, thank you for helping me see the world, thank you for loving me.
To David Peritz, who is a well of knowledge. Thank you for welcoming me to college, and never coddling me.
To Mary Morris, who is a remarkable person. Who pushed me to put any and every emotion into my writing. Thank you for taking a chance on me, and reminding me what my passion is.
To Michael Granne, who brought energy to law. Who taught me what reductio ad absurdum means, which I use more than you’d think. Thank you for your wisdom.
To Persis Charles, who is charmingly witty. Thank you for Reds.
To Carolyn Ferrell, who is the warmest professor I’ve had in college. Thank you for presenting voices we don’t always hear. Thank you for your guidance.
To Eileen Cheng, who is a brilliant historian, and always makes you question what we call history. Thank you for bringing me into academia, and helping me understand how to do research.
To Tim Kreider, who might be the classiest man I’ve met. Who is effortlessly cool while remaining annoyingly humble. Thank you for your work, and thank you for giving me time with mine.
To Cindy Gorn, who is a true Sarah Lawrence person, if such a thing exists. Thank you for opening my eyes to the world of inequality all around me. Thank you for being an activist.
To Sandra Robinson, whose expertise is unmatched. Thank you for showing me a world I never would have uncovered otherwise.
To Wen Liu, whose insane intelligence is only matched by her charm and effortless cool. Thank you for making me rethink my own thoughts.
To David Ryan, with whom I got incredibly lucky. Who is the most unrelatable person in anecdote, but the most significant writing teacher I have ever had. Who inspired me and awoke a voice I didn’t know I had. Thank you for listening, and for caring, and for believing in me. Thank you for showing me why we write.
To Jerri Dodds, who is an enigma. Who is ferociously academic while remaining insanely tender and warmhearted. Who pushed me to ask more questions and nuance the answers. Who took me under her wing when I decided Islamic Art might be a cool lecture. Thank you for inspiring me and advocating for me, and teaching me to advocate for myself.
To Angela Ferraiolo, who might be the most patient teacher I’ve had whose class I never slept in. Who is hilariously clever and made the most difficult language fun to learn. Thank you for not running away in fear when I cried on the third day of class, and thank you for letting me try something new.
To Sally Herships, who is incredibly talented. Who’s never afraid to give it to you straight. Thank you for tuning my ears.
To Lyde Sizer, whose academic prowess was originally intimidating. Who knows so much, but still questions everything, and is always eager to learn from her students. Who works endlessly to ensure her students’ success. Thank you for inspiring me when I thought I was tapped out.
To Kanishka Raja, who does not let me off the hook, ever. Thank you for giving me one last shot at being an artist.
To the classroom aides and substitutes, to gym teachers and principals, to those without whom schools would fall apart, thank you for never letting me stop loving to learn. To my educators, thank you for building me, and knocking me down, and building me back up again.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.