As you are reading this letter today, know that you hold a very dear place in my heart. Call me a sentimental fool, but I can’t help but be grateful that you were my students for this past schoolyear.
From the first class I had with you, I already had a soft spot for Columbia. It had a lot to do with the “aww” moment I got from Liane, but then, that was just the first of many moments where I really felt that leaving radio and getting into teaching was a decision I wouldn’t regret at all.
Columbia was the reason I would wake up at 5 in the morning just to get to work early. It’s no mean feat for a guy who prefers waking up at 9 to actually enjoy getting up earlier all because he refuses to miss a day with Columbia even in exchange for the world. Columbia is a happy classroom. You're all enthusiastic, eager to try anything once, and are willing to perform at the drop of a hat. You are determined and competitive, and as a class, you are a force to be reckoned with.
Allow me to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you personally through this letter right now.
To Alliya, thanks for being a good sport, even when I sometimes rib you about your parties and their match-making abilities. You’re an intelligent girl, and I know there’s so much promise that lies ahead of you in the horizon. You have a really good head on your shoulders.
To Nathan, thank you for being yourself, for all the good and bad things that may come with it. No matter what people say, it’s all about you pushing yourself to achieve. You have what it takes and you know it, but it’s up to you to make good on that potential. It’s never too late. And thanks for the copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, too.
To Lora, thank you for being one of the most affectionate students in class. You have a way of speaking that endears you to everyone around you. There’s little I can tell you except that I hope you continue being the optimistic, infectiously cheerful lady that you’ve always been.
To Raven, thanks for being one of the people who never fail to remind me why age isn’t always an indicator of wisdom. You are living proof that Chinese people really rock. (Although as I told Glenn Hu of Yale, Chinese girls rock harder, of course. Hehe.)
To Nicole, thanks for taking an interest in learning rubik’s cubes from me. It really made me feel like I’m doing something helpful for someone, and the fact that you can solve it even faster than I can ever hope to is testament to your determination.
To Galo, thanks for being our endless source of comedy. You never hesitate to laugh, even at yourself. That’s commendable of you.
To Kevin, thanks for giving the class that unforgettable moment during our interviews. You gave me a moment where I felt I made a difference in someone’s life for the better. As a teacher, there are few things that can make me feel happier than that.
To Elvin, thanks for pushing yourself in my subject. Maybe you’re not excelling in it, but I know you’ve extended effort to make good in it. There’s always room for improvement, so never rest on your laurels. Thank you as well for the Rye School Musical moments I will never be able to unsee for the rest of my life.
To Brianna, thanks for your brutal opinionatedness. I admire your ability to reason out when you feel it necessary to do so. You know how to stand up for yourself, and that is something people need to learn more. Don’t let the “colors” get in your way. ;)
To Kelvin, thanks for being what I would term the “silent voice of reason” in the classroom. I’d daresay you’re sort of an unofficial “Kuya” to the class. You come off as very level-headed and capable of acting as the guy who can really make your classmates listen when you have something to say. You have leadership potential. Tap into it.
To Toia, thanks for being a great conversationalist. The few times we’ve talked made me realize that you’re someone who can really hold an interesting discussion for hours on end. Hopefully, this could only mean that you would be one of the most well-rounded students this school has ever had.
To Wonsok, thank you for being one of the most determined people I’ve ever met. Your sheer will belies your seemingly frail exterior. There’s a lot of brilliance lying dormant in that mind of yours, and mathematics is only the tip of the iceberg.
To Crystal, thank you for being a bright ray of sunshine for the class. I have yet to ever see you not smiling in class, even in the middle of a difficult exam. Your smile never fails to raise everyone’s spirits.
To Alec, thanks for being willing to put your neck on the line when you have to perform. I still remember when you had a danceoff during the debates. You’re one of the biggest sports I’ve ever met, and it would do you a world of good to never change that.
To Lizzie, thank you for ringing the bell just a little late when I need to extend my lessons a bit. Your bubbly personality and mature sense of responsibility will get you far in this world. Rest assured of it.
To Johnny, thank you for going the extra mile in your studies. I realize you probably don’t like English much, but I’m glad you still manage to make it through. Here’s hoping you continue to go beyond yourself.
To Michelle, thank you for being one of the most brilliant writers I have ever met. The world is your oyster, and you have the makings of the next great thinker. I can only hope that you never lose that edge and desire to better yourself. I cannot tell you enough how happy I am to see that you only ever truly compete with yourself, and in doing that, you break the mold.
To Viktor, thank you for being able to break out of your shell whenever you’re called upon to. You’re one of the more quiet students in my class, but that never stopped you from showing us what a great person you are.
To Anna, thank you for being an excellent student all-around. I’m amazed at the progress you’ve made, and I feel that you are going to make it real big someday. Thanks for being an Emma Roberts fan who never backs down from singing her praises. We can never have enough wide-eyed people with a sense of wonder in this world. Most of all, thank you for being a wonderful human being.
To Chino, thank you for your peculiar sense of humor. From your ravings about “Gone With The Wind” to your schizophrenic performances in “Rye School Musical”, you are definitely a person who can do anything you want to apply yourself to. Do the school proud as the council vice president.
To TJ, thank you for being TJ Magnifico, the next big magician from Reedley International School. If you ever really wanted to be a great magician, you already have the ability to entertain people. Seriously. Don’t ever lose that.
To Dani, thank you for being dyslexic. You’re witty, you’re funny, and you know there’s so much you can achieve as you continue in this journey. There’s so much to learn and so much to do, and you wouldn’t hesitate to give it your best when you want to achieve something. Never lose heart.
And lastly, to Eileen, thank you for having been my student teacher. You are the kind of student every teacher dreams to be teaching: eager to learn, smart, and honest. I can never tell you enough how much I admire you as a person for being genuine yet endearing all at the same time. If you ever end up teaching in the future, nobody would be prouder of you than I would.
I may not be back in Reedley next schoolyear, but I know you guys will always be in my heart. I'm a sentimental old fool, I'd admit, but what can I say? I walked into Reedley not knowing what to expect, and I came out of it happy that I had the opportunity to touch the lives of these wonderful students. Only time can tell if my presence in your life for these three quarters amounted to anything, but I cannot thank you enough for having given me that opportunity to be there for you.
Whether as your (former) teacher, or just as a plain friend, I'll be around for you guys. Don't hesitate to ask me for help, for advice, for anything (that doesn't involve money). You guys made me realize that teaching is where my heart will always be, and no matter where I go, the things I learned from Reedley, from Columbia, will always go with me.
This isn't “goodbye”, dear Columbia. This is the beginning of the rest of your lives. And I'll always be there, rooting for you, every single step of the way.