• Communications Team

Special Feature: Story in a Stocking

Updated: Dec 31, 2018

Teachers help create life-long impacts on the lives and education of our students. Daneva Coker, who now works in human resources for Topeka Public Schools was once a student of TPS. Here she shares a special holiday story about her third-grader teacher, who noticed what else could and helped Daneva realize her full potential as a student.

The year was 1972 and it was a much different time.

Mrs. Edith Hunt was my third-grade teacher at Gage Elementary. She recently suffered a stroke, had a crooked smile and a reputation for getting on the “bad” kids. Although I wouldn't have called myself a "bad" kid, I was worried, because I often had to ask the child next to me what the chalkboard said and that lead to a reputation for talking in class.

It wasn’t long after beginning the school year that someone decided I needed “dumb” math and reading classes. Yes, that is what it was called back then (at least to me). After all, I had been called dumb, stupid and a moron most of my life and I had accepted it.

I remember after several days into my new learning situation, Mrs. Hunt came to my rescue. When she learned I was restricted to this class, she marched right down to Mr. Richie’s office, the school principal, and proclaimed, “That child is not dumb, for crying out loud, she’s blind!”

That same week my mom took me to the eye doctor. My mom cried when he adjusted his machine so she could view the world the way I had my whole life. My mom asked me how I passed the eye tests at school. Well, they were done with Es pointing in different directions, and I had learned to read the “spaces” on the Es and give accurate enough answers to pass. The doctor gave me a prescription for eye glasses, and I could see clearly for the first time. Talk about life changing! I could start learning now.

No one in my family had ever worn glasses before me. After I got my glasses, no one called me stupid for asking what was on the chalk board. I wasn’t called an idiot anymore because I could finally see the animals my family had pointed out on road trips and in our yard. The trees were not big green blobs anymore. I actually cried upon seeing the leaves separated in the magnificent and brilliant landscape. Stupid wasn’t an everyday word for me anymore.

Mrs. Hunt gave hand-made Christmas stockings as gifts to all of her students that year. I have displayed this stocking proudly throughout my life. It is a reminder that we don’t always see the whole picture because our mind makes up stories about people. I thought Mrs. Hunt would be the scariest teacher I would ever have and as it turns out, if it wasn’t for her open-mindedness and kindness, I would still be squinting and leading the world to believe I was unengaged and unintelligent.

I would say, without a doubt, the greatest gift Mrs. Hunt gave to me was her faith in me. Her understanding led to the life-changing advice she gave to my mother and the school authorities, which made it possible for me to learn and grow as a student. Teachers really do hold our students' futures in their hands. Mrs. Hunt teaches a lesson to us all. Perhaps we need to scratch beneath the surface before drawing conclusions. What a gift indeed!

- Daneva Coker, Human Resources, Topeka Public Schools

Do you have a story about a teacher or education staff member that impacted your life? Tell us about it in the comments or email us at communications@topekapublicschools.net!

©2018 by TPS Communicator.

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