Mrs. Thompson watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making big X's and putting a big red "F" at the top of the paper.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, it was required for her to review each childs past record... and she put Teddy's off until the 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 a ready 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, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will 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Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school.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 she was ashamed of herself. She even felt 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 laughed when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a half full bottle of perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she examined how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. 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 very day, she quit receiting reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, 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 class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy had become one of her, "teacher's pets".
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her 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 wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Four years after that, she received another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he stayed in school, had stuck with it, and soon would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Then, four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he received his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now, his name was a little longer... the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.
The story doesn't end here... you see, there was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he'd met this 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.
On her wrist was the rhinestone bracelet that Teddy had given her for Christmas. Mrs. Thompson had also used the perfume that Teddy had given her... the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing 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 very much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back, "Teddy... you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference."