Most teachers never find out what happens to their students after they leave the classroom and the school. But several teachers at Windermere Elementary School received the gift of an update from former students who are set to graduate from West Orange High School on May 29.
The WOHS students wrote the letters to their favorite teachers in English class. They were assured the letters would be delivered, no matter where the teachers are now.
Diana Greer, the principal at Windermere Elementary, handed the handwritten notes to the surprised teachers. Kindergarten teacher Sheila Roberts received four from former students, including one from Dylan Guerrero, who signed it, “the student who still likes dinosaurs.”
Michelle Schultes didn’t have letter-writer Michelle McKenna in her third-grade class, but the two shared a special connection nonetheless.
“She came to my room many mornings to help out before school,” Schultes said. “I ran into her at the soccer fields when my son was playing and always stayed to watch her play. (She thought I was there just to see her!)
Schultes said she remembers McKenna’s love and passion for helping other people. Even after leaving Windermere Elementary, McKenna continued to volunteer in her classroom after school during her middle- and high-school years.
“(I am) blessed beyond belief to have such an impact on an 8-year-old,” Schultes said. “I know I will always have the privilege of watching McKenna grow and continue to accomplish many amazing things in her lifetime. She will always have a special place in my heart.”
Third-grade teacher Marysa Sobral taught her letter-writer, Ava Cassatta, twice — in kindergarten and in second grade.
“Ava was a funny, spunky little girl and a wonderful student,” Sobral said. “I was honored to receive her letter and so grateful she still thought of me after all these years. I was very proud to hear that Ava is majoring in education at UCF!”
Third-grade teacher Susie Ott was surprised to hear her name called during the staff meeting and learn that Brooke Penkal has written a letter to her.
“This beautiful brown-eyed, brown hair girl with the adorable freckles and winning smile was graduating and had thought about me,” Ott said. “Brooke always came into class with a smile and pep in her step. … When it came to learning, she was eager to please, willing to put in the work and fierce.
“Even after she went on to the upper grades, she always popped into my class to say hi and grab a hug,” Ott said. Children do stay in your heart after they move on to the next grade.”
Marcy Gibbs, who teaches the English Language Learners class, received a letter from her own daughter, Emily. The two rode to school together each day, so Gibbs had plenty of one-on-one conversations with her. Gibbs was grateful to be able to see her daughter multiple times during the school day and attend special school events.
“When the letter was read aloud it brought me to tears,” Gibbs said. “She thanked me for the impact I have had on her life and thanked me for everything I’ve done. The time has gone by in a blink of an eye — she is a young adult heading to college and I am still in the classroom often wondering where the time has gone.”
Kindergarten teacher Sharon Chandler received a letter from Kiersten Sadlier, who was in her first class at Windermere.
“Kiersten was a beautiful, kind-hearted and hard-working student who was well-liked by all who met her,” Chandler said. “She yearned to please and follow directions. … I fondly remember that (she) and her thoughtful mommy made me the most precious video of all the children for an unexpected end-of-year gift.”
Chandler said she feels blessed that Sadlier chose her as her most memorable teacher but stressed that all educators deserve a similar letter.
“We all are prideful, loving, dedicated teachers who (do) our very best by each and every student every single day,” she said.
IN THEIR WORDS
Dear Mrs. Chandler, Thank you for making school so much fun. To this day I remember all the crafts we did and how much you made me enjoy school. I hope you are doing well! Sincerely, Kiersten Sadlier
Dear Mrs. Gibbs, I am writing this to tell you how much I appreciate having you as a teacher (not really). 4th grade was a blast and I’m thankful that you drove me to school every day. You really went out of your way to make an impact on my life. Thank you so much for everything. Love, Emily Gibbs (Marcy Gibbs’ daughter)
Dear Mrs. Ott, Graduating this upcoming May, I have been reminiscing about the days where I could run out to recess and be so carefree. Thinking about elementary school, you and Mrs. Setaram come to mind; always keeping my peers and me happy and excited to learn. I am so grateful to have met you and be one of your students in the third grade! Your love for teaching and energy always made me feel so welcomed and kept pushing me to do my best. I am still deciding on where to go to college, UCF or USF! And guess what, maybe you’ll see me on the sidelines at one of those universities! I am so excited for what life has in store for me and I wanted to thank you for the impact you gave me in my elementary days. Miss and love you! Brooke Penkal
Dear Mrs. Roberts, Thank you for teaching me in kindergarten in 2006. I am a senior at West Orange now. Thank you for starting off my learning experience. You are my favorite teacher still to this day. I miss you making us color in all the white spots and all stations you created for us to play in. Thank you again for making my first year of school my favorite year. Love, Haley Fountain
Dear. Ms. Roberts, It’s been over a decade since I last (spent) enjoying your wonderful class. My greatest memories of life (are) when you taught me during kindergarten year. This is why you’re my favorite teacher of all time. Since then I’m already a senior in high school and about to face graduation. I’m currently focusing on a career around aviation. I’m planning to become a pilot. I’d made this letter to give my thanks and gratitude for such a great teacher you were to me and also to my younger sister, Dya. You are and always will be the best teacher I ever had. Sincerely, your student who still likes dinosaurs, Dylan Guerrero
Dear Mrs. Roberts, My kindergarten teacher from Windermere, I (remember) the life teachings you taught me and how you truly cared for your students, especially being attentive to my asthma and doing what you could to help me through my asthma attacks whenever they happened. I hope you have been doing well and will continue to do well. I have been doing fine and graduate from high school in the fall. Your guidance has helped me so far and navigate through life successfully and for that I thank you. Sincerely, Janna Williams
Mrs. Schultes, To my namesake, you are one of my favorite teachers (even though I never had you). I loved helping you all throughout middle school (it was my favorite part of my day). You never fail to put a smile on my face and the rest of your students! I wish I could go back and relive all of the good carefree days with you! I hope to see you a lot more (even in airports). I can’t believe I’m graduating this year and I want to thank you for all that you have done for me, shaping me into the young lady I am today! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Love you long time, Michelle McKenna
Mrs. Sobral, Thanks for being such an amazing teacher. To this day, you are still one of my favorite teachers. I am so very thankful that you were able to teach me for two years. I am actually very interested in the field of education and am going to UCF to major in elementary education. Once again, thank you for being a memorable teacher whom I looked up to very much. Much love, Ava Cassatta