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My Favorite Teacher Contest

Evansville Day School Junior Leah Gehret received second place in the Barnes and Noble My Favorite Teacher regional contest.  Leah wrote this letter to Mrs. Leilani Deem, Upper School art teacher, explaining how she has influenced her life.

Dear Mrs. Deem,

I don’t think I could thank you enough for the ways you’ve impacted my life. For starters, you’re one of the few artists I can go to for advice. But your help goes way beyond the needs of a budding artist. Life is full of wonderful destinations with few smooth roads, and high school has been no different.

The teen years aren’t easy anyway, but there I was, entering freshman year as the new kid. I struggled to relate with my classmates at my old school; now I had to do it again. At such a young age, when everyone is fighting insecurities to find their purpose in the world, it’s hard to know who to trust. And circumstances left me without my dad for the next year or so.

Life at home was even worse than school, and with my struggles on top of everyday responsibilities, it was getting harder for my mom to take care of me while managing her own emotions. Surprisingly, my grades stayed afloat. But as for my confidence, I sank to the bottom. I was alone, missed my dad, and art was my only escape.

And that’s when you asked me to help you on your persona page for the summary document of your first project for your graphic design course. Initially you just wanted me to make a customer example for a compact kitchen, but then you saw that I also wanted to design the persona page and had me help with designs for other assignments. Every day we worked together, I was excited to go to school. I had a renewed confidence and driving force in life. The experience was special to me because, seeing that I had interest and potential in it, you gave me an opportunity to expand my talent, but you were also my friend.

You were the friend I needed the most and you strengthened my confidence in my work. I remember how your art teacher encouraged you to pursue art in college. Now, as a teacher, you’ve taught me photography, illustrating and interactive design and encouraged me to enter into some of the best art colleges. Through this, you’ve shown that when a teacher helps a student spread her wings, it inspires younger generations to do the same.

When I think about all you’ve achieved, I know following my passion is the answer, regardless of salary.

Some say it’s not the income, but the outcome that counts in teaching. Whenever I want to give up, I keep going, because I want you to see that your hard work has paid off when I eventually pursue my own art career. Whether it be in photography, illustration, or graphic design, I could be the gateway to another young person’s future, just as you were to mine, and I am forever grateful.


Leah Gehret