Since 2017, Charter School Capital has held an annual essay contest celebrating exceptional teachers. We call it the Dewey Awards, in celebration of Mr. Richard Dewey – a teacher who provided exceptional mentorship to our founder and CEO Stuart Ellis. Every year we get a brilliant selection of stories written by students from charter schools all over the nation. This year’s winners are featured here. But each of these stories is worth sharing.
This week we bring you a story written by Ana Daley, about Mrs. Cook, of Carolina Charter Academy in Angier, North Carolina.
As an adult, I often think back on my time as a student and the teachers that have helped shape me into the adult that I am today. This has been especially true since I took a position as a school nurse at my children’s charter school (Carolina Charter Academy) this year. I now have the privilege of working side by side with some of the most amazing teachers and people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I see how they pour themselves into these children, day after day. I see, firsthand, the time and energy they spend caring for these kiddos, acting as not only educators but helping provide a comfort zone for these children as well.
Way long ago, when I was in high school, in 1991, I had a drama teacher named Mrs. Cook. The thing I remember the most about her, was how accepting she was of all her students. We were a bunch of outcasts in the drama club. There were children that were just discovering their sexual orientation, kids that marched to their own unique beat, and just basic teen hormone problems. At the time, my parents had split up and were getting divorced. It was an extremely difficult time in my young life, but I knew at school, in drama, that I felt a peace and belonging.
I always felt welcome and accepted in Mrs. Cook’s class. When I felt the least confident and unsure of myself, she could see my potential. She encouraged me to go out for the lead in a play. She then cast me as the lead of this one-act play (Pink Lemonade for Tomorrow), my first ever performance. She directed me, encouraged me, helped me find my self-confidence and my voice at a time in my life when I was lacking all the confidence in myself to do anything worthy of praise. That confidence that she helped me build took that performance and our drama club to state that year. We lost, but we were one of the best in the state of Florida, all thanks to the guidance and direction of our wonderful Mrs. Cook.
For sure, Mrs. Cook is now retired, but I will forever be grateful for the strength she saw in me, when I was having a hard time seeing it myself. This brings me back to the school I am nursing at now. I see the strength and courage of these teachers, reaching out to make a connection with their students, even virtually, as a pandemic rages on all around us. I see them, much like Mrs. Cook, going that extra mile to not only educate, but make their students feel safe, validated, and seen.