What is a incredibly special teacher really worth? Ode to Ms. Jamie Cook, Our (3 times) winning lottery ticket.

Imagine standing in line to buy a lottery ticket. Then imagine a stranger hands you one and says here you go, I think this one is lucky. You’re skeptical but you watch the news that night and low and behold your ticket is a million dollar winner! Now imagine that happening twice. Then three times. That is what is Ms. Jamie Cook is to us..worth a million dollars x 3!

We first met her three years ago at school open house. Our family had just moved to Florida two weeks before from Indiana and everything was so new to us. My oldest was starting elementary school, there were boxes everywhere at home and we didn’t know a soul yet. My poor son was so nervous, probably feeding off my nervous energy to some degree. I had these hopes for him as we were walking in. That he would love his new school, that he would make new friends and especially that he would get an amazing teacher.

Unbeknownst to us, the teacher too was new to the school. She probably had her own nervous hopes that she would love it there and get a great class of children to teach. You would have never known that, she was a ray of sunshine and confidence that day. After talking to the families she asked for parent volunteers to sign up and as I approached the sign up sheet there was only one spot left..homeroom mom. I had no idea what this would entail but I signed up anyways as I was in fact a mom.

I began helping her with organizing everything from themed fair booths to class parties to making sure she got classroom supplies replenished. I was a lunchroom helper every Wednesday. I also had the honor of being present in the classroom to help out from time to time and got to see her excellence in action. The way she played to the strength of each child and engaged them in their learning. I was always blown away by her creativity, her boundless desire to make a difference and willingness each day to bring out their best. I got to see how special each one of them was made to feel. My son blossomed with her. He made an entire classroom of friends. He loved being in her class so much he made us arrive at the school early so he would be the first one to walk in the door to greet her. He simply couldn’t wait to learn with her every day.

At the end of that year she announced for any interested families she would be looping, a term for moving on to the next grade with the class. She would keep the class intact and teach them first grade as well. This is winning the lottery for the second time! What are the odds? Another wonderful year of growth, confidence and inspiration for my son and the whole family. Our daughter, who was in VPK that year began to say she too hoped for Ms. Cook the following year. I continued to volunteer with the class and continued to see her teaching in action which is nothing short of incredible! She makes you want to care even more because she does..so deeply.

This year our ticket was called for a third and final time. Our daughter would have the privilege of being taught kindergarten by Ms. Cook! As a parent there was such a sense of relief finding out your child will be getting that wonderful opportunity that you know your other child had. Our daughter has a completely different way of learning than our son yet what was the same was that I was once again in front of the school early because another of my children wanted to be the first into her classroom every day. My daughter is ending this year just as her older brother did-with a classroom full of new friends. Her growth this year has been beyond our hopes and dreams. I am also ending another year of being her homeroom mom, a third year of emails, organizing, running certain things and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

This teacher has helped to lay the foundation twice for a love of school and learning that will stay with them as both of the kids move to new grades. My son had new teachers this year and continues to love school. But yet when he was planning his birthday party Ms. Cook was one of the first he named to invite. This is the second year in a row she’s attended, on her own time. I haven’t yet mentioned she is also a single mother to two beautiful girls. Her plate is full and she still finds the room. I don’t know how but she does.

Students from her previous two classes still visit her in the mornings before they head to their new rooms just to see her. They are welcomed to do this! She wants to be a part of their lives, she wants to know what they are doing. She still listens to what is important to them that they want to share with her.

She is still there for each of them. Last week alone 3 of her previous students were in a music recital. They invited her to come because she means that much to them. One of those students was my son. There I sat side by side (not exactly side by side, my daughter insisted on being in between us) with her watching the once shy boy she met three years ago get on a stage without sheet music and play his guitar before the crowd. She is part of the reason he had the confidence to do this. She believed in him. She encouraged him. She still encourages him. The two of us clapped the loudest, we know how far he has come and we are both proud! (My husband was on a business trip so sadly he missed the recital but for the record he is also proud). This was also on her own time, a Saturday morning that she gladly gave up to be there for them- former students who love her. One girl says she wants her to come to her wedding someday, I believe she will be there then too. Their triumphs will always be celebrated by her, she will never forget or “move on” from these children. This sign on her classroom door says it all. She believes her students are important. She believes in you, whatever your hurdles are…she believes you will overcome. She know you WILL succeed!

So as these years of absolute magic come to a close, (my daughter is with her on her last day before summer begins right this minute) I’m thinking a lot about what she’s taught me too. She has taught me what a difference a dedicated teacher can make. She has taught me that teaching doesn’t end when the bell rings to go home each day. She has taught me about compassion, kindness, friendship and how big a heart can be. That a special teacher should be honored more than any Teacher Appreciation Week gift you could ever buy. The gifts she’s given us I could never match. We leave another school year today once again overjoyed to have gotten another winning lottery ticket.

How much I will miss her I can’t put into words. I am confident she will always be a part of our lives and our hearts. Each child and family she teaches can be assured that if they want her there she will be. But I will not see her in the classroom. I will not get to watch another class be guided by her. It is time for us to know that 3 lucky, winning lottery tickets is pretty darn rare and to be grateful for that! But still I will deeply miss her..we will deeply miss her very much.

There is a group of families somewhere who don’t even know how lucky they are going to be come August. They will be walking into that classroom unaware that they have hit the lottery. Her heart, already full, will make room to love each of these children too. That love will not be for a school year but forever. May all children be blessed with a Ms. Cook. May all parents. May all schools.

To our lottery ticket I say one final thing-THANK YOU!! Thank you for every day, every week, and every year. Thank you from every parent and every child. Thank you for being the best first, second and first again teacher we could have ever dreamed of. Thank you for choosing to share your gifts and your talents in this way. Thank you for the pieces of your heart you gladly give away. Thank you for being YOU!!!

I hope some of you have benefited from teachers like this one. I hope you found your own “Ms. Cook”. I hope it’s bittersweet to say goodbye because of what they have given to your family. I hope you tell them this if so. We know teachers don’t work for the paycheck but to elevate children to the next level to leave them. They get them ready and it’s also hard for them when it’s time to say goodbye. Exceptional teachers pour love into our kids and I hope you will refill their tanks with your own gratitude. As always I welcome questions and comments.