Becki Couch is a former teacher and current Duval County, Florida school board member. She shares how a chance encounter with a former student reminds us that immeasurable human traits such as empathy and honoring the intrinsic value of every child strikes at the heart of what it means to teach. No metric can capture the moment a teacher makes the connection that turns a student’s life around. Often the returns of that moment aren’t known for years. There’s no bonus or extra evaluation points, just hard-won memories carried by hundreds of thousands of teachers of the students they’ll never forget. How lucky for Becki Couch to receive the gift of knowing that the child she she believed in so long ago learned to believe in himself. In her own words:
This evening I ran into one of my former students who I have often thought about over the years. He had a very rough home life and started abusing drugs at an early age. When I taught him in sixth grade he was a very difficult student and when I had him again in tenth grade he told me he didn’t want my class because he knew I wouldn’t like him due to our past.
I reminded him I am there to teach him and not hold a grudge and that I believed he was capable of changing if he let me help him. When he graduated he came by my class and told all of my students to treat me right because I never gave up on him even when he doubted himself.
Tonight he told me he has a good job (the same one he wrote about in his “Where I see myself in ten years” essay) and he does not take drugs. I was so happy to hear that. He was one of those kids that was standing at a fork in the road and he could turn his life around or continue down the destructive path he had been given by years of pain with his family.
He chose life! He chose to better himself and tonight I have once again been reminded of how important it is to have people in our lives that don’t give up on us.
Becki Couch was elected to represent District 6 on the Duval County School Board in August 2010 and is currently serving her second term. She taught at Baldwin Middle Senior High School in Jacksonville, Florida for ten years. She and her husband, James, have two children who attend Duval County Public Schools.