Dear Novi Community Schools,
It goes without saying that no one enters the teaching profession for the high salary and over-the-top benefits. The real payoff is making a difference in the lives of your students, but I imagine you don’t get the final results very often. Which is why this letter has been on my heart for quite some time.
I moved back to the Metro Detroit area four years ago and even more recently in Novi just a mile from the high school while our new Livonia house is being finished. As I reminisce and reflected on my journey back to this place it occurred to me that none my accomplishments would have been possible without you. My K-12 education, all completed in Novi, was a solid foundation to the life I have built, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
When I was four years old my mom left my abusive father with me and my little sister in tow. Adding “single” and “homeless” to “working mom” was not the title change she was hoping to accomplish. She moved us into a trailer park on the far side of town. Of all the places she could have chosen, places she could have probably bought a house cheaply, she specifically sought out Novi for the schools. She knew YOU were great, and she was willing to live in a place that was less than glamorous in a trade for safety and excellent schools.
Beginning with my bus commute, while I’m sure there were other logistical considerations, I rode the bus with the kids who lived in the one other trailer park in Novi. Our two stops were the last, which meant none of the other kids we went to school with, the kids who lived in half-a-million dollar homes, knew our secret. I’m thankful for that.
You sent me to the brand new elementary school, Parkview. I will always remember that center-circle library and Mrs. Newbold with her crazy-hat reading comprehension crafts. Throughout my tenure, I was free to explore my interests and strengths. I dabbled in art, industrial design and creation, math all the way up to trigonometry (though geometry was my favorite). I became a varsity cheerleader and had a co-op hour my senior year where I worked as a gymnastics coach. I also traveled to France for two weeks with my French class. As a mom, I now understand the gumption and planning it took for Ms. Arrick and Mr. Saxton to take us abroad.
My teachers never treated me differently, I was never an outsider, and I was held to the same expectations as all the other kids. I distinctly remember in 5th grade getting a D+ on a reading project. I don’t remember why, but I do remember Mr. Hurst wrote “I know you can do better than this.” And he was right.
For many reasons, my home life was less than idyllic, sometimes chaotic, throughout the years and I didn’t always have a parent looking over my shoulder to make sure I did my homework or studied for a test. My allegiance was to my teachers. They worked hard to help me learn and I needed to hold up my end of the bargain.
I was a straight-A student and when all my peers were applying for college, I did too, because no one ever told me otherwise. The rhetoric could have been “are you sure you can afford it?” or “why not community college for a few years?” With your help, I applied and went on an academic scholarship.
You set me up for success. You instilled a love of learning inside of me that I carry to this day. My grandmother always said “if you can read you can do anything.” When you really think about it, you helped me to read. You helped me to achieve my “anything.”
I don’t mean this post to stroke my own ego and discuss my resume. What I’m trying to impress upon you is that little old me, that little shy girl from a broken, trailer park home, made it. I beat the odds stacked against me and I have you, my public school to thank. School was stable and safe for me, I enjoyed it, and all things considered, it was a level playing field.
I didn’t turn out to be rich or famous or powerful. But not only am I a first generation college graduate, I also earned a masters degree in higher education. That Livonia house I’m waiting on? I’m having it built and it’s the third home my husband and I will have owned. I help to provide for my family working in a STEM field, but have interests in humanities and social justice. I’m working on building my own business as a means of satisfying the relational and creative side of my brain. Just as my mother worked to change the circumstantial destiny for me and my sister, I’ve worked to change it even further for my children.
You have made a difference in my life. In a world where public school is under the microscope for everything from violence to efficacy, to fair wages, I want you to know that what you do matters.
To all the teachers out there, but especially*….
Mrs. Zalinski, Mrs. Kettlehut, Mr. Hunt, Mrs. Hogan, Mrs. Newbold, Mr. Banas, Mr. Center, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Barry, Ms. Arrick, Mrs. Denys, Miss Jill and Miss Sue.
Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week. I am forever thankful for the impact you have made in my life.
With deepest gratitude,
Megan Crissman Germain
*If I’ve accidentally left you off here it is because I vividly remember your face but not your name, and for that I apologize. Your impact has been just as meaningful to my life.
An Open Letter to My Public School