Teachers make a difference

By Linda Morgan Giles

As another school year draws to a close, perhaps it is a good time to remind teachers that they do more than cover curriculum; they change lives.

George Zitwer

I don’t know where Mr. Zitwer is now; it has been 52 years since I was in his 5th-grade class at PS 78 in the Bronx. But I wish he knew that when he sought to teach letter-writing by having my class correspond with students in a 5th-grade class in Las Cruces, New Mexico, he started a friendship that has spanned decades.

For all this time, my pen pal and I have stayed in touch. At times it was frequent and at other times it was just a birthday or Christmas card. Our lives became busy, but we stayed in touch. When life-changing events happened — marriage, birth, loss of a loved one — we shared our happy and sad moments. Strangely, we didn’t speak on the phone, almost as if to do so would be to break an unspoken rule. We remained pen pals.

Twelve years ago on her way to a wedding in Connecticut, my pen pal stopped by with her family. It was our first meeting; it was brief and interrupted by limited time. We promised we would meet again.

Last week, I received the phone call — Sadie and her husband were on their motorcycles in Washington and their next stop would be New York. They spent a week with my family and it was amazing. We found we have so much in common; we laughed, shared stories and even found ourselves saying the same things.

Mr. Zitwer just wanted me to learn to write a proper letter, but he gave me a treasured friendship. A friendship that is priceless.

Thank you, Mr. Zitwer, and thank you to all of the teachers who use their creativity and stand strong in their commitment to enrich the lives of children. Having completed 30 years in the New York City Department of Education, I know that some days it is difficult to remember that what you do daily makes a difference. It does.

Linda Morgan Giles is a UFT member and was a guidance counselor in New York City public schools for 30 years.

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