The teacher who saved my life

Everyday was a mess and my anxiety levels were high. When I went into middle school, my struggle was not in the academics, but rather my mental health. I was absent often and stayed in a very low spot for a long time. Johanna took notice right away; I didn’t have her in class my sixth grade year, but passed by her everyday in the halls. She always smiled at me. This one act of kindness each day lightened my spirit.

Mrs. Toth always makes me feel like I can stop in for a visit.

I remember the day I met her in sixth grade. We had to do progress monitoring, and she was my monitor. Though I can’t explain how we got into this conversation, I’ll never forget what she told me: “If you ever need anyone, ask for the lady with the red curls.”

The next year I noticed our moods would be in sync. When I came into the classroom we’d each feel happy or down for one reason or another. I felt very connected and attached to her. There were days she wanted to be alone. She would always ask me to leave and close the door behind me. I would sit in the hall and wait though. I never wanted to leave when she asked me to, but out of respect I did. I hope she knows that it was so hard to leave her in that moment, especially because I knew how she was feeling.

On my lowest days, I went to her seeking advice. Everything she told me was taken in bit by bit. Her advice and phrases like “give and take” continue to stick with me today. When I come across a sad pair of eyes, I will approach them with my knowledge and comfort.

There was frequent exposure to nasty in my childhood, but Mrs. Toth  knew how to turn ugly into opportunity and struggle into experience. It was a normal thing for me to take care of everyone before myself at this age, but because of Mrs. Toth I realize how to treat myself better.

She wears the same necklace every day, on the round silver pendant is the tree of life. On the back its says, “remember what’s important.”  I recall purposely choosing to buy a necklace with the tree of life on it because it not only reminded me of her, but to remember what’s important.

To this day we share our close bond. In my world she is famous, and in her world she doesn’t know it. I couldn’t have gotten this far without her. Mrs. Toth prevented me from taking my life many times, and for this I owe her mine. Even if she doesn’t realize it, she did -and continues to do- so much for me. She successfully got me through middle school, encourages me to go through with my goals, shares values with me, is always sending me love, and gets me what I need when nobody else can.

Here’s to the teacher, Johanna Toth, who both literally and figuratively saved my life.