To hear his aunt tell the story, Luis Guaillas didn’t just dislike school he was afraid of it.
“He was crying. He didn’t understand anything,” his aunt Maria Ulloa said.
Who can blame him. His family had only been in Stamford for a year, leaving their home in Ecuador, where he knew everyone and everyone spoke his language. He understood and was understood. Now after an awful year of struggles in fifth grade, he was heading to Turn of River Middle School expecting more of the same.
But waiting for him was Miriam Gonzerelli, his language arts teacher.
“Never will I forget the first day that I came to this beautiful school,” he read to an audience of more than 30, including Gonzerelli at the Barnes & Noble at the mall. “She received me with a big smile in her face. It was for me, very comfortable because I felt safe and happy…”
Standing behind the podium, the boy dressed in a blue suit continued to read aloud his essay My Favorite Teacher Ever, as his family, Gonzerelli and her family listened. It won first prize in the bookstore’s annual My Favorite Teacher contest, earning him and his teacher gift cards and certificates and a chance for more prizes.
But really, what more reward could there be for a moment like this? A boy afraid of school, who didnt’t speak English now loves it well enough to stand in front of a crowd and read in a language he wasn’t born into speaking.
His teacher was greatly touched.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she after the speeches, hugs and photos. Growing up in the Bronx, she was struck by the need to help others, carrying with her the memory of people who didn’t make it out of Ft Apache. Today, she said she felt lucky. “Not that many people get to be paid to do what they love.”
On Wednesday night, she was paid the ultimate wage. It was greater than gold.
I’ll have the full story on this later in the week.