Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My mentor

To continue with the theme of National Mentoring Month, I thought I should take the time to write about the mentor who inspired me the most in my life.

I have had many wonderful mentors who have guided me, but there is one that I think truly made me the person I am today. Her name was Merrill Watrous and she was my 5th Grade Teacher. Mrs. Watrous was one of those teachers that found a gift in every child and tried to bring out that gift. For the students that struggled in school, she did what ever was possible to bring them up to speed, whether it was staying with them after school to work with them on an essay or gave them extra materials to study for history exams. For the students who excelled, she gave them reading recommendations, news article recommendations, and extra credit assignments to push their ability.

Mrs. Watrous was the one who encouraged my interest in history - she gave my assignments to write about great American women such as Abigail Adams and Sojourner Truth. She had me read the poetry of Maya Angelou and encouraged me to try and read the New York Times. For all of her students, Mrs. Watrous emphasized the importance of history, especially the history of minorities and the poor. She taught us spirituals and learned about the slave trade. She assigned us to read The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox, about a slave ship, Lyddie by Katherine Paterson about a young girl working in a factory during the 19th century to teach us about child labor, and Dragon's Gate by Lawrence Yep to learn about Chinese-American history. The fact that I can remember these books 13-14 years later is a testament to what an impact they had on me.

Ultimately, Mrs. Watrous wanted us to be informed, passionate citizens of the world. She encouraged us to know about those who were in need, but also to learn about great figures to become our personal heroes. To this day, I still say Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, and Eleanore Roosevelt are personal heroes to me - all figures that I studied in 5th grade. She also had us keep journals, telling us to write not about what we learning in class, but about what we were interested, and what we were feeling that day. She encouraged us to be editors to one another and always had us "Say one nice thing to someone everyday."

Finally, as the tallest girl in the class (I know at 5'4'' this seems amazing now, but I was in the 5th grade), Mrs. Watrous encouraged me to stand tall and take pride in who I was. It helped that she was 6 feet herself and carried herself with confidence but also with warmth. She also gave the best hugs, and I'm sure many of my classmates could attest that a hug from Mrs. Watrous could make any bad day better.

Mrs. Watrous was most definitely the catalyst that led me to want to work in the public interest sector and led me to want to work at Cabrini Connections. I also think her emphasized on journaling has continued in my blogging - first when I was studying abroad in Paris, and now working at Cabrini Connections.

If someone has been a great mentor to you, please let me know and I would love to publish your story. We all have mentors, and many of us have several of them. National Mentoring Month is a wonderful time to thank these mentors for making the world a better place.

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