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Rebecca Benoit – South Summit Elementary

“The Teacher Who Inspired Me Most”

Just like any other teenager, I have faced the challenges life has thrown at me. Although I have never had to face the pain and anguish of loss, nor the panic and fear of drug use; I have had to overcome an obstacle that has put me at a disadvantage my entire life. When I was younger I had trouble with concentration as well as mood swings and depression. It wasn’t until the first grade that it became truly noticeable, yet my teacher never made my struggle visible to my parents. At the end of that year she finally mentioned it to my parents, but by this time it was too late; the general decline of my confidence and understanding only went downhill from there.

As time went on it became apparent that without that first concrete base of learning that we gain in the first grade I was falling behind my classmates. By the time I entered third grade I was ostracized and bullied. My teacher could do nothing for me, so instead of trying to deal with it and help me, he pushed me into the assisted learning classes. It wasn’t until the fourth grade that a teacher sat me down and told me that I wasn’t stupid. She helped me learn the basics, I learned to read in the fourth grade, and finally learned to add and subtract, as well as working on the fourth grade curriculum.

Mrs. Benoit at South Summit Elementary School was that teacher. She never once made me feel stupid, quite the opposite really, she made me realize I was smart, almost brilliant. I was brilliant because I had made it all the way to the fourth grade, I was smart because I searched for help, and she often told me I was brave, brave for handling all the torment and pain that was thrown my way. It was with her help that I have become who I am.
When I first walked into Mrs. Benoit’s fourth grade classroom I had no confidence. But by the time I walked out of that room I could at least look people in the eye. I am not saying that Mrs. Benoit fixed all of my problems within the span of one year, because she didn’t. But what she did was set me on the road of finding myself. She helped me to establish the basic building blocks of life so I could one day overcome my shortcomings. She helped establish within me the ability to fix the problems she could not. If it were not for her, I highly doubt I would be graduating from high school in three weeks.

In order to put me on the right path and help me to develop an understanding, Mrs. Benoit kept me in for most recesses. She spent much of her free time helping me. She was never anything but honest with me. She never made me believe that I would ever be just like the other kids. She made sure I knew that I was just as intelligent as them, but that I would always have to work just a little harder than them. Because of this honesty, and respect, I have achieved much more than anyone would have thought I would. Because of the respect she showed me I gained confidence. And with that confidence I found a passion for motivating others to overcome the obstacles that have forced them to fall behind.

Last year I went to visit Mrs. Benoit. I had heard she had been having some difficult times and I wanted to tell her how she had inspired me. It took a moment and then she smiled and laughed and simply said, “I knew you’d make it.” That one simple sentence was enough to bring me to tears, because it made me realize just how much faith she had in me, faith I didn’t even have in myself. Thank you Mrs. Benoit for giving me the tools to be who I am today!

–Alyssa Tia Hanson