High school is tough. Some people find it difficult fitting in with their peers, but for me, identifying with my family was very difficult. At an age when you need your parents more than ever, mine were going through a divorce. Instead of being the one nurtured, I was often the one doing the nurturing, listening to both parents vent about the other, consoling their tears, and often times trying to extinguish their anger in hopes of getting them back together. For a sixteen year old, this was emotionally taxing and made it difficult to focus in school.
My English teacher, Mr. Fillier had a way of teaching above and beyond the curriculum. Instead of teaching literature, he always extrapolated themes to life itself. He pushed us to think critically and divergently. I remember that our conversations were very thought provoking, and often times my mind would wander to my parents and problems at home. I think because our conversations made us reflect on life and history itself, it always caused my brain to spiral back to thoughts of what was going on outside of school.
English was my strongest subject, but for some reason, I just could not focus in these classes. Many times, I would have to leave the classroom because I was emotional and needed to step out. Sometimes I would stay after class just to sit alone and cry. He would listen to me and just be there—not to speak with me or offer advice, but just be there so that I would not feel alone. He always made me feel welcome in his classroom, and made sure that I knew that if I ever needed to be alone, he would let me have his classroom or find a safe and quiet place for me if his classroom was in use.
Eleven years after graduation, I think about Mr. Fillier daily. Reflecting on my teenage years, I realize how much his commitment influenced my life and how important his compassion was in developing me as a person. His love and support helped me persevere, and pushed me to want to please him academically more than anyone else.
Mr. Fillier was there for me in more ways than he will ever know, and for that, I am eternally grateful.