When I was in the second grade I was a shy kid with ponytails that sat in the back of the room. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Gilmore. I was very quiet, very unsure of myself, but Mrs. Gilmore would come by my desk often, lean close and whisper in my ear, "You can do this. You just have to believe in yourself."
Mrs. Gilmore introduced my class that year to American poet e.e. cummings. He was famous because of his use of inventive punctuation and the lack of capital letters in traditional places. Mrs. Gilmore's love for his poetry was contagious and so all of my classmates began to use Mr. Cummings as our writing mentor and adopted his style by writing our names in lowercase letters. During that year, under Mrs. Gilmore's tutelage, my self confidence grew as did my love for Mrs. Gilmore. I began to believe in myself.
As we graduated to third grade, my friends reverted to writing their names in the traditional way but I continued to write my name in the top right hand corner with lowercase letters just to remind myself of Mrs. Gilmore's words. Every time I wrote my name, I could feel her gentle hand on my shoulder and the whisper of her soft voice in my head encouraging me to believe in myself. When I went on to college I continued with lowercase letters because I had decided that I wanted to be a teacher, just like Mrs. Gilmore. As my teaching career gathered in years, I continued writing my name in lowercase letters as a tribute to the dedicated teachers who mentored me and changed me along the way. Today... all these years later... I still write my name in lowercase letters because I want to be a teacher like Mrs. Gilmore. I want to inspire students like she once inspired me. It reminds me that one teacher can change a child's life... because it happened to me.
When she finished, she laid two pens in front of me, a Chets Creek pen and a Chets Creek Church pen tied together with her trademark Clemson orange ribbon, representing a partnership that has meant so much to me over the years. It was then that I tearfully realized that this was a penning ceremony. The Pen Ceremony is a fictitious ceremony created for the movie "A Beautiful Mind." Historically university professors have used pens to communicate their ideas to others. The giving of one's pen is a symbolic gift to the person being honored for recognition of their wisdom and contribution. The only other time we have done a Pen Ceremony was when founding Principal Dr. Terri Stahlman left Chets Creek.
It is truly humbling for me to think that I have effected anyone else's life and believe it or not, it is difficult for me to stand in this type of limelight. But former Alimacani Principal, Donna Hulsey, once said to me, "Get over yourself. This is about so much more than you. When a single teacher is honored, it honors all teachers and the entire teaching profession." It reminds teachers of why they come to school everyday and why they give so much to so many. It reminds each of us of the difference that one teacher can make in a child's life.
Today... I think Mrs. Gilmore would be pleased...