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Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorite students. And if you ask us, we’ll deny it. But rarely, that student comes along who, for whatever reason, stays with you for more than just that one school year.

That student for me is one that I had about seven years ago. When you’ve been teaching for 26 years, all those years seem to blend, and it’s hard to determine how much time has passed since you had a particular student. They just keep coming through, and you just keep getting older.

We’ll call this student Emily. That’s not her name, but I would like to protect her identity since I didn’t ask permission to share her story or use her name. I don’t think she’d mind though. We’re kind of on the same wavelength about most things.

I had this student twice a day when she was in sixth grade. She was in my class for English Language Arts and for reading which was a separate class.

One of the very first interactions I had with her that year was because I had to “dress code” her. Another teacher had noticed that her shorts were way too short and in violation of the dress code, and since she was in my class, it was my job to break the news to her.

I don’t remember the exact exchange in that conversation we had, but I do remember that she handled it well, and the thing that sticks out in my memory is that the next day, she thanked me for having that conversation with her.

That was one trait that stood out to me about Emily. She was mature beyond her years. She was so resourceful, and it came from a place of great struggle. Her life, to that point, had not been easy. I didn’t know all the details of her situation, but I knew she had spent a lot of time raising herself. She had the responsibility of taking care of her siblings a lot of the time. I also knew that she was in the school-based mental health program.

For some reason, Emily and I just clicked that year. She was so smart, and I was in awe of her resilience. She seemed to enjoy being in my classes too. She loved to learn, and she was one of those students who looked to you as if every word you were saying was pure gold. It’s a nice feeling for a teacher of middle school students.

That year when we were doing demonstration speeches, Emily wanted to do hers about making homemade French fries. She sought out the assistance of the family and consumer science teacher who helped her gather the materials she needed for her presentation. That was one thing that always impressed me about Emily. If she wanted to do something, she always found a way. And because she was so genuine and respectful to the adults around her, there was no shortage of people who wanted to help her.

After Emily left my classes at the end of that year, she continued to keep in touch. She would stop by my room for a visit when she was still in the building, and even when she left and moved on to high school, she kept in touch.

For a time, she had a job at a drive through coffee stand, and she was so excited to make her own money. I would sometimes go there for coffee and give her an extra nice tip. I was so proud of her for working so hard to try to better her situation.

Emily continued to go through ups and downs in her life after sixth grade. At one point, she ran away from home, and her face appeared on my Facebook feed when her family was trying to find her.

She had run into some problems with drugs and addiction. Again, I don’t know all the details of what happened. I only know that I received a letter from her from an out-of-state facility where she had been sent to be helped. I wrote back to her. She could receive letters and certain types of gifts, so I sent her a book of encouraging stories. She wrote back and sent me a picture of her on an outing she had earned by doing well and following the rules at the place where she was staying. She looked good and seemed excited about the things she was learning.

After a time, she was back home where she floundered a bit again. Eventually, she became pregnant and had her first child before graduating high school. This may have been the event that made Emily more determined than ever to stay clean and take control of her life.

She reached out to me when she was having her son. She brought the baby to see me at school shortly after he was born. It’s such an enormous responsibility for someone her age, but she’s a loving mom and so strong. I am still in awe of her.

Last summer she heard that I was working as a docent at the local historic mansion in our town. Still possessing the great love of learning that she’s always had, she expressed an interest in coming on a tour sometime. I told her to come anytime, and that the cost of the tour would be on me.

Emily has never been just talk. When she talked of visiting the mansion, she meant it. A few weeks after our initial conversation, she and her boyfriend and her son came on my tour of the mansion. They managed the infant beautifully on a 90-minute tour of a three-floor historic mansion on a group tour. Just like had always been her way, Emily asked great questions and even had stories she knew about the mansion that she shared with the group. She has a teacher’s heart, and I felt like we were co-teaching on that tour.

Now Emily and I are Facebook friends too. I get to keep up with her and what is going on in her life and she still watches me too. She’s an old soul. Not every teen-aged girl participates in Facebook conversations. Many her age think it’s just for “old people.” I’m an old soul too. I think that’s one reason that Emily and I hit it off so well all those years ago.

Every year I put out in my classroom a snowman ornament made from a lightbulb that I received from my favorite student. Teachers won’t usually admit to favorites, but I do have mine. Emily and I have taught each other a lot over the years, and I’m so grateful that she is still part of my life.