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Ms. Shirai

A Poem For My Fourth Grade Teacher

This poem about my fourth-grade teacher that I wrote years ago. It begins and ends with words from her — the first ones she greeted me with and the last ones I heard her say. To Ms. Shirai, I never got the chance to visit when I could, to let you know you’ve changed my perception of kindness and altruism.

I hope that one day, I can.”

“Come in, come in.”

Classroom, brick walls, up the stairs.

You smile at us and I feel, admittedly, more welcome than I do in my own home.

A sweet old woman you are.

Soon you become the only reason I want to go to school.

I help, I volunteer with anything you need, even after hours.

You regard me with favor, but this is not why I like you.

I like you because when I forgot my homework, you treated me like anyone else and told me to pull a card; green to yellow. Face the wall.

I liked you because I watched you give your new blue tennis shoes to a girl with soles that were falling off. The only thing you were worried about was if they would be too big.

I liked you because you were the kindest and most genuine soul I had ever met.

And when I told you I had to switch schools

And couldn’t finish off the year,

You cried right before my eyes.

Yes, I remember

Sobbing in the middle of the library, for everyone to see.

And I couldn’t cry

I couldn’t get over it,

I couldn’t get over the fact that no one had ever cared for me as much as you did.

You encouraged me

Believed in me 

Set a gold standard for what a true teacher should be

And on my last day,

on my very last day

I knew I wasn’t going to miss my best friends

or the creak in the stairs when I walked

nearly as much as I would miss you.

Years pass and I couldn’t find you

Not when I drove by

Not on my computer

Not at the grocery store

The only thing I have is a small picture in a yearbook.

And now

Freshman year

Five years later

I get back in touch with someone, someone who knew you, someone who could make the arrangements

Only to hear them say

“She retired last year.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever come across someone like you again

Because teachers are plentiful, but good ones are rare

And even though I’ll never find you

Just know I’ll always care.

“Goodbye.”

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Written by Catherine Horkay

Cat is a 5’0 junior in high school with dreams that reside much higher than her height. Her passions include academia, berry smoothies, and LGBTQ+ rights. (IG/TWIT: @catnipscarlet)

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