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The Teacher That Changed My Life

Thinking back to all of the teachers I have had, there have been great teachers who have made a lasting impression, but none have impacted my life in quite the way that my high school math teacher, Mrs. Garrison, did.

My parents didn’t graduate from college. So when a friend told me that to go to college I had to take the SAT, I did. When I got my scores back, I had done fairly decently, but my math score wasn’t good at all. At the time, I felt that I needed to improve my performance on the test.

I had been in Mrs. Garrison’s class for several months at this point, but had probably never said a word. Despite this, I went to her after class one day, showed her my SAT score report and asked if she would tutor me after school to help me get better. Without any hesitation, she said yes. Looking back, this was such a huge ask on my part, and for her to agree on the spot was way bigger than I realized at the time.

For the next few months, I went in every day with an SAT prep book and I would sit there and work problems in her classroom. When I encountered a problem I didn’t know or I got one wrong, she would teach me how to do it. The next time I took the SAT, my math score increased by almost 150 points.

After taking the SAT and improving my score, I started to get brochures in the mail from colleges and there was one that stood out to me because I liked the way the brochure looked, so I applied to Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, which was the only school I applied to, and was accepted. Four years later, I went on to earn my Masters in Education from the University of Texas at Austin and thus began my career in education. None of which would have happened had it not been for Mrs. Garrison.

My work in education is largely driven by this experience with Mrs. Garrison – by tutoring me she gave me open doors to opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had access. I wanted to provide more students with this same opportunity and give them access to tools they need to be successful and be ready for college.

Mrs. Garrison, I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me in high school. Because you took a chance on me, a quiet student who never spoke in your class, you changed my entire life trajectory. I certainly would not be where I am today if you hadn’t provided me with the opportunity to succeed.

Stacy Miles is the chief human capital and program officer at NMSI.