“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Just as in Stephen Schwartz’s musical Wicked, at some point we encounter someone who changes our whole perspective of the world. I am fortunate to have had this person enter my life during my senior year of high school. She became the woman who developed me as a student, assured me that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark it may be and not to change for anyone but yourself.
Senior year is moment you long three years for—unless you were me. After a successful sophomore year and a great deal of drive my counselor, family, and myself felt it would be beneficial for me to combine my junior and senior year allowing me to graduate a year early.
This did not have an effect on me until the first day. Creative writing was not like any other class I had taken, and the teacher was not like any other I had before. From that day on Mrs. Tammy Stuisuck would make an impact on my life.
Our first assignment was to introduce ourselves in any way that was creative. We had to present our creativity in front of the class and then submit a written aspect for a grade. “Simple” I thought to myself as I began to brainstorm my project. I decided to create a self-portrait with everything I love and do drawn on the back half. My first draft of the writing portion did not satisfy me, I wanted to go beyond the basics and introduce myself as the person only my closest friends see. I felt I could trust Mrs. Stuisuck with the information I wanted to give, and I knew it was what I wanted to finally say.
“I am not going to stand up here and tell you about the physical me…,” I started as I went on to explain my appearance. “Who I really want to introduce you to is the person only a few actually get to know. I want you to understand ‘the real me,’ the kid who is lost somewhere inside a mind comparable to that of Lewis Carroll’s…” I had the classes’ attention, and even more importantly I had the attention of the woman who would change my view on life. “I love freely, and unconditionally which will never change. That also means I am comfortable with my choices and myself. I am gay.” My heart sank. For the first time I had openly stated my orientation. I glanced out to the class, and Mrs. Stuisuck made eye contact. Her expression was warm and I felt as though I could go on. I finished my presentation and Mrs. Stuicuck took the floor. She began to speak to the class about diversity and acceptance, not because of me but because it was a key to success.
The idea of understanding and diversity was just the beginning of what I learned in room 308. As time passed I realized Mrs. Stuisuck was not just there to teach us. She was there to learn and understand what people are dealing with. She referred to herself as a “forever student” and encouraged us to be the same. The ability to learn goes beyond the textbooks and homework assignments; the most learning comes from the people you interact with and the lessons they teach you. I adapted to the concept of the “forever student” and started to see the world on a deeper level.
As applications began to become available, Mrs. Stuisuck encouraged me to go for the schools of my dreams. She reinforced the idea that the easy route would not satisfy me and success was with hard work and a rejection or two. I knew no matter how bad things looked I had to push through and never give up. Her constant support and faith in my abilities drove me to setting goals like keeping a 100 average in physics and applying to schools that would require more work then the local community college or SUNY state school. It is because of her I am writing this essay and it is because of my ability to excel, with the confidence she helped develop, that I know I can be successful with my post-secondary education.
“Like a seed dropped by a bird in the wood” the outlooks on life Mrs. Stuisuck had planted in my head will grow with me. As I branch out to the people I encounter I will use the idea of the “forever student” and learn from what they have to say. Due to Mrs. Stuisuck I have been changed for good. I am truly thankful to have had her as a mentor and I hope I can reinforce the ideals she placed in me in the lives of those who I meet.
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