Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reconnecting, Years Later, with a Teacher

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reconnecting, Years Later, with a Teacher

Article excerpt

Anyone who has ever attended a class reunion knows the pleasure of reconnecting with old friends and reminiscing about long-ago activities, classes, and teachers.

But for most of us, reconnecting years later with teachers remains far more difficult. Students move on and teachers retire, leaving behind only memories and images of their younger selves frozen in yearbook photos.

So imagine the surprise, one midwinter Wednesday, when an envelope arrives in the mail bearing the return address of a favorite seventh-grade teacher. Inside, two sheets of lined notebook paper filled with small handwriting contain essays I'd written in his social studies class. One was on success, the other on freedom.

"I'm a voice out of the past," the teacher's accompanying note begins. "I thought you would like to reminisce about your years at Lincoln Jr. High by reading these assignments. Your seventh-grade class was special. I suppose that's the reason I kept them all these years. I do hope you enjoy remembering the past. Warmest regards, John Costello."

Over the years, I've thought about Mr. Costello many times, fondly recalling his enthusiasm and wondering where his career had taken him. Now the familiar handwriting that once marched across the blackboard fills the letter in my hand, unleashing memories of a friendly dark-haired man in a white shirt and tie who often bounded, rather than walked, into our classroom. He even includes his phone number.

I call. We talk - and talk. Still energetic, Costello goes to the Y at 4:45 a.m. six days a week to work out. He speaks proudly of his three sons and two young grandchildren. He also outlines a career that spanned 38 years - 14 as a junior high principal - before he took an early retirement in 1987.

What prompted him to save certain papers all these decades? "I used them as examples for other classes," Costello says. Now they give him a reason to contact former students. "By word of mouth, you hear of where people are," he says. "I have the nerve to interrupt their lives and reminisce."

What a pleasure that interruption is for both generations. …

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