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“Just try it. It couldn’t hurt to try,” my high-school advertising teacher constantly reminded me. Mrs. Panarelli wanted me to apply for a scholarship given by the business department in my school. I thought about all the other applicants; I had no chance whatsoever. I decided to express my feelings to her. In doing so I noticed a solemn look come across her face. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “I don’t want you to be intimidated by the other students, their averages, or their SAT scores; this is a very good opportunity for you.” Finally, she convinced me to apply for it.
I had to write a resumè, an application letter, and schedule an interview. To my surprise, this was a big deal for the business department. When going on the interview, one had to dress as if applying for a job. The amount the scholarship awarded was not very much, just enough to recognize your accomplishments in this field. Like Nicholas Gage, the author of “The Teacher Who Changed My Life,” his Ms. Hurd was my Mrs. Panarelli, “the teacher who would become my mentor and my muse” (187). Both teachers find their students’ interests and shape them to achieve the highest standings in their chosen field. With motivation and compassion, both Nicholas and I worked endlessly to prove our potential to Ms. Hurd and Mrs. Panarelli.
In a myriad of ways, the teaching methods of both my advertising teacher and Nicholas’ English teacher are similar. Before I set foot into Mrs. Panarelli’s illuminated classroom, I had never been interested in majoring or even succeeding in the field of business. Advertising II, in my school, was an elective which was well known as a “time sucker,” meaning it was an easy course that would only help your average and fill up your schedule. To be honest, like every other student in the class, I did not take it seriously. However, it became serious when I was made aware of the grades I was getting. Something didn’t seem right. I was not “slacking off.” I was doing my work well, perhaps not to my potential, but I wasn’t getting the grades I expected. Many times I would look around the room at others and what their work was like, and I couldn’t believe it.
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Like Ms. Hurd, Mrs. Panarelli would not lower her standards for anyone and tried to motivate her students by showing them “tough love” (189). Mrs. Hurd, however, would try to motivate Nicholas without his knowledge. To illustrate, she published Nick’s essay about what happened to his family in Greece in the school newspaper and submitted the essay to a contest sponsored by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where he won a medal (188). She took a risk by putting Nicholas’ trust on the line. On the other hand, it resulted in a positive outcome and helped him become more motivated and more social with friends.
Both Ms. Hurd and Mrs. Panarelli were more than teachers to their students. In fact, they were their friends. As the semester went on, I found myself volunteering to work at the school store, which Mrs. Panarelli helped manage, just so we could spend time chatting. She acted as a peer, a confidant, one that I could tell my life to and not worry about it “slipping out.” As a young woman, I filled a gap in her life. She was blessed with the happiness of having two adorable boys but was missing the companionship of a mother/daughter relationship. Likewise, Ms. Hurd took on the role of being a surrogate mother to Nicholas since his mother, who had fantasized of her children receiving an education, not to mention one from Boston University, died fleeing her homeland (189). Nicholas remarked that instead of his mother “the person who came with my father and shared our joy was my former teacher, Marjorie Hurd” (189).
My teacher and Nicholas’ teacher took interest in our work, which turned into centering their lesson plans on us. As my work grew better, Mrs. Panarelli became very impressed. She would recognize my work to the class by showing it as a model for all to follow. This was very influential for future work that I was assigned. I found the assignments easy to figure out because I related to them well. I felt that she designed them around me so that I could stand out and do well. Whether this is the truth or not, God only knows, but it made me feel important. Similarly, Ms. Hurd seemed to design her lessons around Nicholas. Nicholas points out:
She assigned stories of underdogs--poor people, even immigrants, who seemed ordinary until a crisis drove them to do something extraordinary. She also introduced us to the literary wealth of Greece giving me a new perspective on my war-ravaged, impoverished homeland, I began to be proud of my origins. (187-88)
Both Ms. Hurd and Mrs. Panarelli paved the way for their student’s success in life. I would not have won the scholarship and been interested in the field of business if it wasn’t for Mrs. Panarelli. Without Ms. Hurd, Nicholas would not have been as well educated as he was and would not have been quoted by President Reagan in his television address after meeting with Gorbachev (189). In order for Nicholas and me to be Mrs. Panarelli’s and Ms. Hurd’s “model students,” they did not cater to our careless efforts. The power of inspiration has driven both Nicholas and me to work to a potential that wouldn’t disappoint our teachers, a potential that could never be questioned by them. These teachers will stand out in the lives that they have touched; but most importantly to Nicholas and me they are our friends, ones that are irreplaceable.
Gage, Nicholas. “The Teacher Who Changed My Life.” Developing Connections. Ed. Judith A. Stanford. Mountain View, California: Mayfield, 2000. 186-192.