In 1997, Christin Gilmer received her end-of-the-year report card from her sixth grade teacher, Judith Toensing, which read: "It has been a joy to have you in class. Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation!" Christin kept that fourth-quarter report card for the last 21 years and did just what was asked of her: she invited Ms. Toensing to see her graduate from Harvard as a doctor of public health on May 23.
Not only that, but after reading a thank-you letter Christin wrote back in April to all of her inspiring teachers, Harvard school administrators actually reached out to offer Ms. Toensing the invitation — which was hand-delivered by Christin — to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's 2018 convocation.
"It was a really humbling experience to get to hand my graduation invitation to Ms. Toensing, but even more incredible to experience her actually getting to attend the ceremonies due to the fact that my school, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, thought it was important to highlight the incredible teachers, educators, and supporters who have given so many students the opportunity to follow their dreams," Christin told POPSUGAR. "I am eternally grateful for this gift, just as I am for Ms. Toensing's enduring legacy in my life, as well as all the devoted support from teachers like my mother (who spent five decades as a public school educator)."
In the thank-you note Christin published to Facebook, the 33-year-old honored "every single one of [her] Arizona public school teachers, administration members, nurses, principals and vice-principals, guidance counselors, classroom assistants/para-educators, coaches, general staff, and volunteers" for giving her "the tools to achieve my greatest academic goals, belief in change and people, and passion for learning."
"I got to become who I am because of people who believed in me from day one."
She added of Ms. Toensing: "Of these many amazing heroes, I met one of these teachers in the sixth grade, Ms. Judy Toensing, who taught me about current events, global health, and human rights. She was the first person who passionately conveyed the plight of people living with HIV/AIDS to me and started me on this journey."
Most people have some form of a Ms. Toensing, who inspired them from a young age to do great things and to be what and who they wanted to be. For me, it was my grade-school teacher Mrs. Kruse, a loving and caring educator who always encouraged me to keep writing and telling stories because she "loved" my fictional work as well as my (probably boring) first-person accounts of life as a fourth grader.
When it comes to being grateful for the influence of inspiring teachers, Christin put it best: "I got to become who I am because of people who believed in me from day one, and I know we all owe gratitude to those who have extended this same support in their lives."