Dear Mr. Klune,
In 1997, you saved my life.
Not just once or twice.
You saved my life every-damn-day that I walked through the doorway into your classroom.
I was a broken 12-year-old, beaten to crap by life and left excoriated.
You and the four walls of your classroom were my haven.
I got to get up and leave my house in the morning. For the time that I was with you – I was safe.
I cannot truly explain what that meant to me; what it still means to me.
You taught me that my ideas and skills were precious commodities.
You preached respect and the power of critical thinking and nuanced dissent.
You opened up my world to authors and artists.
You encouraged me to write even when I felt like it was all crap.
(In all fairness, my writing from that time was atrocious. Thank you for listening and reading and coaching me through.)
Parent-teacher conferences that year were a hot mess. My mom and dad started yelling at each other over trivial bits that I honestly don’t remember. I started to have a panic attack. You snagged my elbow and guided me into the hallway. You looked me in the face and told me some of the greatest truths of my life: “You are not the sum of your parents or their choices. You get to forge your own way.” You then marched back into the classroom and told them to calm the heck down.
What may have been just another lesson plan to you was the making of a lifetime — my lifetime.
Thank you for seeing me both as I was and who I could be.
I tried to find you to send this note to you personally, but I was unsuccessful.
So, Mr. Mark Klune, hopefully one day you will Google yourself, and find this tiny note from me.
From the 12 year old, the grown woman, and her children.
The work that you do/did matters.
J. Billington Gray