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Meet My 4th Grade Teacher, Mrs. Whittaker

I was a runt up until the 4th grade. My “Tough Todd” nickname was because I used to get in fights as a young boy. No joke. My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten and I walked around with a chip on my shoulder.

And then I went into the 4th grade. And I got Mrs. Whittaker as a teacher.

Little did I know she would help me turn my life around.
She spoke quietly.
She emanated warmth and love.
She let us play kickball and dodge-ball way past the allotted time.
We had extended recess.
She was smart as a whip.
And most importantly, she believed in me.

Heck, she even let me take Crystal, the class guinea pig, home for the summer to care for it. And yes, I brought it back alive in the Fall.

Well, Mrs. Whittaker (now 82-years young) reached out to me the other day as she heard I was raving about my “4th grade teacher Mrs. Whittaker” in a talk I gave back on the East Coast. Coincidentally (or not), one of the attendees in the talk I was giving was a student-teacher under Mrs. Whittaker many moons ago and she connected the dots. Eventually, Mrs. Whittaker tracked me down and gave me a call.

I gave her a call back and I heard the same voice I heard about 26 years ago. Soft. Warm. Loving.

I simply thanked her for having such profound impact on me as a young 10-year old boy at a critical juncture in life. I could have gone either way in the 4th grade and she inspired me to go down the “good” path. I told her she served as a mentor to me before I even knew what a mentor was.

  • We talked…and talked…and talked some more. She told me about:
  • How she is nearing 83-years old and still in good health. She walks every day around the lake in her neighborhood and loves hanging with her cat Rosie.
  • She told me how her incredible husband who she was married to for many years passed 7-years ago. She talked about their incredible travels all over the world. You could tell she still loved him very much.
  • She shared her passion for snow-skiing and time spent in the Berkshire Mountains with her late-husband. I asked her if she remembered the blue Volvo she used to have with the ski racks on the top (for some reason I still remember that about her!).
  • Her 35+ year teaching career (Brick, NJ) and all the incredible people she got to work with.
  • We talked about her incredible faith in God and how she always taught with God in mind. She said she wished there was more about God brought into today’s schools. Amen.
  • I talked about my faith and how it has played a vital role in my life on all levels (family, leadership, business, overcoming adversity and challenge, and everyday purpose).

We connected deep and it was a conversation I truly cherished.

And then she said, “Todd, you know what I call today’s call?

I said, “No, what Mrs. Whittaker?”

She said this is what I call, “Hugs from God.” She went on to say this call was one of the highlights since her husband passed 7-years ago. WOW.

I was about moved to tears.

Our call lasted 32 minutes. And I loved every minute of it.

After we hung up, I was just so grateful for the conversation. And for teachers and mentors like Mrs. Whittaker who had a tremendous impact on me. And thousands of other kids.

We all have teachers, coaches, mentors, and people in our life who have greatly influenced us. My hope is that you pick up the phone today, call them, and thank them for their service. And thank them for believing in you. Because we ALL need that!!

Pick up the phone and call a former teacher, coach, or mentor today. Don’t wait. Thank them for what they did for you…and for always believing in you.

Thank you for allowing me to share someone with you who I have not talked about in any previous emails/posts. It amazes me to think back that long ago and to see how that experience from the 4th grade so greatly impacted my life. And still does today.

Let’s never underestimate the power of a mentor or teacher. And whether that be from grade-school, high-school, college, your working years, a spiritual advisor, a business mentor, an old coach, a parent or grandparent, or a wise old soul you have a great relationship with, let’s be grateful for the people in our lives who served/serve as “IMPACT MAKERS” in our lives.

Mrs. Whittaker, thank you for helping to mold me in my very formative years. It’s people like you who have helped me become the person I am today. And for that, I am grateful.

And for all you teachers and coaches out there, as the school year draws to a close, I hope you are getting ready for a GREAT refreshing summer break. Finish STRONG and get ready to fuel up for creating more impact next school year!

Thanks for all you do!!!

Much love,


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