In hindsight, I really don't know what, if anything, you knew about my story back then. But you probably saw much more about my struggles than anyone else did. Even if you didn't know all (or any) of the details, I have no doubt you could see I was an angry, lonely, hurting teenager, and I was full of dysfunction, violence, and helplessness, and I hated everything you asked me to do. I'm sure you knew I didn't like you. But maybe you didn't see that I always respected your grit. And you definitely don't know how I've always remembered you as the only reason I made it through high school. As I sit here today, I regret not telling you sooner.
You didn't have to come in early or stay late for me, but you did. You didn't have to schedule around me or give up time with other people for me, but you did. You were the first person in my life to sit down with me, one on one, and pour yourself into me, day after day, without losing your temper or raising your voice or walking out on me. You were the only educator in my school who invested more than the minimum to help me succeed. Other people had meetings about me and talked about what they were going to do about me. You met me where I was at and went through it with me. You did not pity me. You did not criticize me. As far as I know, you never even said anything negative about me. A lot of my teachers did. A lot of them gossiped about me and put me down. But you did not.
I guess I figured it was just your job. Why else would you care if I passed your classes or not? I know better now. You didn't have to put the time into me. No one would've noticed if I'd fallen through the cracks. There were no career incentives or popularity points in it for you back then—not when it came to a sorry, dirty, "troubled" kid like me, a transplant from out of town, whose parents didn't have any friends in the district. My class was full of better prospects, after all. There were plenty of students who were much more worth the investment.
I said you were mean, but you weren't. You were a mystery to me. You were an honorable woman who treated me with a quiet toughness and a patient endurance that I didn't know how to interpret. You valued a kid no one else valued. Your tenacity was so foreign to me, I didn't even know how to speak to you—I could only mumble and avoid eye contact.
You weren't "nice," either. Your kindness was not charity. You didn't toil beside me so that others would see your hard work and self-sacrifice. You gave of yourself in private. You gave where there was no reward. You never asked for recognition or thanks, and I never gave them to you. I only gave you attitude. But to this day, whenever I think about the teachers I had in high school, I think about the ones who looked at me with scorn and disdain and impatience—and then I think about you.
I have no idea what beliefs you hold now or by which principles you chose to uphold your gift of teaching then, but when I think back on your work in my life, I see the love of Christ flowing through you, Mrs. Boeck—a love so visible and free (no strings attached) that an unlovable kid like me couldn't even see it for what it was at the time. You welcomed me into your heart in an active and practical way that no one ever showed me before. There were a lot of people who could see what was wrong with me in high school, but you were the only one who committed to making any of it right. You made me better than I was—better than I wanted to be. And even if someone had told me that was what you were doing at the time, I wouldn't have known what it meant to me back then. Now I do.
You had no way of knowing your time spent with me would ever be worth it. There was nothing about me that said I'd ever turn out all right. As far as you knew, I could've kept right on spiraling out of control, deeper into the black, never to be seen again. But you gave of yourself to me anyway. I thought you were crazy. I thought you were wasting your time. But you were not.
I might never become a mathematician... but then again, I certainly never saw myself becoming a pastor, either. [Updated 2018] I'm a licensed minister under the authority of the Northwest District of The Wesleyan Church now, on track for ordination in 2020. I received my bachelor of science in Biblical Studies from Indiana Wesleyan University in October of 2015. I might eventually pursue a Master of Divinity; I keep saying I'm done with school, but God won't leave me alone about it.
And in some very real and meaningful respects, in a lot of weird ways I can't begin to fully express right now, these are all things that never could've happened if you hadn't come alongside me back when you did. Who would've thought a passing grade in mathematics would make all the difference in the world for a wandering misfit to meet the educational requirements of vocational ministry a lifetime later? I very literally would not be where I am today, Mrs. Boeck, if you had not set your feet in my path and lifted me up, against my will at times, to make sure this weirdo, outcast, white-trash lost girl could learn enough algebra to graduate Arlington High School.
None of this happened overnight. It's been more than 15 years since I walked across that platform with my graduating class. But I realize I've never told you, so I'm telling you now: Thank you. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for your heart. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your faith that your work would somehow pay off. Thank you for believing in me when I did not.
May grace and peace be with you always, blessed lady.
AHS Class of '02