Every person has a dream of becoming someone and making his or her mark in this world. When they are young, they dream of becoming Superman or Barbie, and their little imaginations are running wild trying to think of ways to be just like them. But imagine being a child with a completely different dream. A dream so big that it is more important than anything else in the world to them. That dream is to be loved and accepted. But not any kind of love, unconditional love. It’s so hard to imagine dreaming this, right? Only because it should be something so natural and automatic. But for some, it doesn’t exist. They never feel it. That’s all I ever wanted as a child, and that is what Alison did for me, immediately, when no one else would.
When I was 13 years old (5th grade), I was placed in a children’s home after being removed from my family. I had the rare opportunity to attend school at the local public school instead of within the home’s walls. I was a very difficult kid with behavior issues, attention issues, and so much more. I struggled with feeling like no one accepted me or even wanted me around. My own family didn’t want me, why would anyone else? So, my plan was to make everyone around me as miserable as I felt. But that didn’t work with Alison.
Alison literally took me under her wing and helped me learn to focus (I have ADHD really bad) on my academics and never made me feel bad about the struggle. She knew I was smart, I just couldn’t slow my brain down enough to grasp concepts, and I would just give up. She also helped me excel in sports and even fought to get the children’s home to allow me to be a part of the school’s basketball team. But the biggest impact that she had on me wasn’t helping with school or sports, it was her treating me like a person. She saw me. She asked about my life; about me. She wanted to know who I was as a person and help mold me and show me that I really could be and do anything I wanted. It wasn’t just talk; it was real. She genuinely cared about me. A kid that bounced around in foster care and children’s home because no one wanted them or wanted to deal with the issues that were tearing them apart. Why me? Why would she do that? I will honestly never understand the reasons, but I will always be grateful for whatever it was. She changed my life that year.
And then, she did it again. About 5 years ago, I hit a major turning point in my life, and I was so lost. I didn’t feel like I was doing what I was supposed to in my career or my life, and I felt like I was literally a failure. I reached out to her, and we just talked about everything. After that conversation, I enrolled in my master’s program to become a counselor, and I have never looked back.
I am 39, almost 40 years old today, and she still checks in with me. She still supports me as a person, and I still hear her voice in my head whenever I hit a difficult road in life. “Keep going, it’s just a pothole. Fill it!” I carry this into every single counseling session that I do, and I share everything I have learned from her with all of my clients. She is my hero in every sense of the word, and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.
Alison’s teaching has and always will be an extension of who she is at her core. The best part is, she isn’t just a teacher in a classroom; she is a teacher every second of every day with every individual she encounters. She sees every person for who they are and the gifts that are there within them. She doesn’t stop at teaching you math, reading, writing, etc. She teaches you about life, being a good human, and how to be a productive member of this world. She never gives up on anyone, even when they give up on themselves. I know, because she never gave up on me and still hasn’t to this day.
I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Alison Anderson. I know I gave you my story, but I know for a fact that I am not the only one she has touched and whose life she has changed. She is an incredible teacher, but even more, the most incredible human. I hope you will honor her with this award so that she can see just how amazing she is and what she means to all her students!