Beliefnet
There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name wasMrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie.

Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she lovedthem all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the frontrow, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that hedidn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were messyand he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to revieweach child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with aready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners...he is a joy to be around."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, wellliked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has aterminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard onhim. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and was ashamed ofherself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume.

But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed, how prettythe bracelet was. She put it on and dabbed some of the perfume on herwrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say,"Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to."

After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that veryday, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children.

Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked withhim, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her pets.

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling herthat she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrotethat he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was stillthe best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while thingshad been tough at times, he stayed in school, had stuck with it, andwould soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assuredMrs.Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he everhad in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time heexplained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go alittle further. The letter explained that she was still the bestand favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he'd met a girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs.Thompson's ear, "Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said,"Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

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