National Teachers Initiative
5:25 am
Sun April 29, 2012

More Than A Teacher: 'One Of The Best Feelings'

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 11:31 am

Two teachers on either end of the country have made lasting impressions on their students. They stepped up to mentor and comfort students who had difficult home lives — and they're still there for them today.

Harlee Patrick, now a high-school student, was entering third grade when she met teacher Kate Musick.

"I didn't have the best home life. My dad wasn't really in the picture and mom was doing things that nobody was proud of, like drugs," she says. "One of the most difficult things, when I was young, was my mom getting locked up. Her not being there was like, what do we do?"

Musick, who teaches in Virginia, tells Patrick she remembers sitting down with her in the hallway one day, hearing about something Patrick had witnessed the night before.

"My heart literally was breaking in that hallway, and there was nothing more that I wanted to do than to protect you," Musick says. "But I also knew that there were certain boundaries that teachers had to work within. And I really tried to figure out a way to help you realize that what you were witnessing was not your fault and that we were there to help you, always."

When people reached out, Musick says, Patrick "chose to grab onto their hands."

"Sooner or later, I noticed there's people that care. It's one of the best feelings you could ever have when you're going through rough times at home," Patrick says. It was like she had family outside of her home.

"And we're still here," Musick says, "and I think you know that we'll always be there for you."

Jose Catalan found a teacher who reached out and is still there for him, too.

Shortly after starting at Los Angeles Teachers Preparatory High School, Catalan joined the running team. His favorite teacher, Carlos Vicarra, says Catalan became one of the best runners in school.

"I remember you saw me running on a pair of soccer shoes," Catalan tells Vicarra. "And you told me, 'Are you running in that?'"

Vicarra bought his student a pair of running shoes.

"I felt like crying, 'cause nobody had done such a great thing for me," Catalan says, "and that's when I started to know that you would always help me."

Vicarra says he sees a lot of himself in his student.

"Well, we went through the same things in life," Catalan says.

Neither of their families had much money, and both Catalan and Vicarra worried about their parents being taken by immigration officials. One day after school, Catalan got very emotional in Vicarra's classroom.

"You are the only teacher who I trust and I feel confident talking to," Catalan says. "I always thought of being a teacher, but I didn't know what a good teacher was until I saw the way you taught."

Catalan is currently finishing his first year at Glendale Community College. He's studying to become a math teacher. Vicarra says he wants to mentor Catalan when he starts to teach. He looks forward to a long friendship.

"For me, it's pretty amazing the way you are," Catalan says, "not only as a teacher, but as a person too."

Audio produced for "Weekend Edition" by Jud Esty-Kendall.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, for another conversation from StoryCorps' National Teachers Initiative.

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GREENE: Today, two stories about teachers who went beyond the classroom to help their kids. Our first goes back almost 10 years. Harlee Patrick was entering the third grade, and that's where she met Kate Musick, her teacher. At StoryCorps, they looked back on that year.

HARLEE PATRICK: I didn't have the best home life. My dad wasn't really in the picture, and Mom was doing things that nobody was proud of, like drugs. And one of the most difficult things when I was young was my mom getting locked up. Her not being there was like, what do we do?

KATE MUSICK: One day, you and I came out and we sat down in the hallway and you started talking about something that you had witnessed the night before. And my heart literally was breaking in that hallway. There was nothing more that I wanted to do than to protect you. But I also knew that there were certain boundaries that teachers had to work within. I really tried to figure out a way to help you realize that what you were witnessing was not your fault and that we were there to help you always. And when people reached out to you, you chose to grab onto their hands rather than push away.

PATRICK: Sooner or later I noticed there's people that care. It's one of the best feelings you could ever have when you're going through rough times at home.

MUSICK: The fact was you had a family outside of the house - and you knew that. And we're still here. And I think you know that we'll always be there for you.

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JOSE CATALAN: My name is Jose Catalan. I am going to have an interview with my favorite teacher.

CARLOS VIZCARRA: My name is Carlos Vizcarra.

CATALAN: I think it started when we went running. I had come here recently.

VIZCARRA: And after that, of course, he joined the running team and became one of the best runners at school.

CATALAN: I remember you saw me running in a pair of soccer shoes and you told me, are you running in that? You decided to help me and you bought me a pair of shoes. I thought like crying 'cause nobody had done such a great thing for me. That's when I started to know that you would always help me.

VIZCARRA: Probably 'cause I see a lot of me in you.

CATALAN: Well, we went through the same things in life.

VIZCARRA: Yeah. Coming from a family that doesn't have a lot of money, worrying about your parents being taken away by immigration. Remember that one time that you got very emotional in my classroom after school?

CATALAN: Yeah. You are the only teacher who I trust and I feel confident talking to. I always thought of being a teacher but I didn't know what a good teacher was until I saw the way you taught.

VIZCARRA: I would love to mentor you when you start teaching. And I think that you're going to make a great teacher. And I definitely look forward to a long friendship with you.

CATALAN: For me, it's pretty amazing the way you are, not only as a teacher but as a person too.

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GREENE: That was Jose Catalan with Carlos Vizcarra in L.A. And before that you heard Harlee Patrick and Kate Musick in Hampton, Virginia. More about StoryCorps is at NPR.org.

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GREENE: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.