As we age, our ability to remember (and retain) people, places and things isn’t always as razor-sharp as we’d like it to be. Yet, ask an adult who their Kindergarten teacher was, and as if it was just yesterday, the response is swift and often accompanied by a facial expression that immediately communicates a heartfelt reverence for their teacher. Such is the case with Ben.
Thirteen years ago, Ben was a little boy attending Kindergarten at Square One. His teacher was Cindy Recoulle who today, serves as the organization’s Assistant Vice President of Programs for Quality Assurance at Square One. But for 24 years she taught Kindergarten, and, she taught Ben.
“I remember much about Ben,” Cindy recalls as she exhales deeply, folds her hands in her lap and looks upward as if a movie is playing and she is watching precious memories unfold only to her. “I remember that this little beautiful boy was removed from his mother’s home. His mom was having a difficult time, she was going through a rough period in life and the Department of Social Services awarded temporary custody of Ben to his grandmother. Working full time and taking care of Ben wasn’t easy for a grandmother, as you might imagine, and so she often came to Square One for support. It wasn’t for services, as much as it was for a sympathetic ear to listen. And so, during the day we worked to prepare her grandson for school success. At pick up, we sat and talked, but mostly we just listened, and we offered whatever supports we could. We encouraged her to join the parent group we had going in those days, and she came several times. When Ben left Square One, he was still living with his grandma.”
As happens with most Kindergarteners and their teachers at the end of school, Cindy and Ben hugged, said a tearful goodbye and parted ways, but 13 years later their paths have once again crossed.
“I was at Putnam Academy for a conference,” said Cindy. “There were multiple groups sitting at different tables. When the program ended, I was walking around admiring the new high school. I heard, ‘Miss Cindy?’ I turned around and there was Ben! I instantly recognized him. There we stood, hugging each other. When we finally let go, the first thing Ben told me was this: ‘I am going to graduate this year and then I’m going to college.’ He had done well in school and now had a plan for moving forward with his life. I asked about his grandma and learned she was doing fine, but then Ben said, ‘I’m with my mom now. She finally got her act together.’ For a 17-year-old to have that awareness, let alone to have lived through it, is amazing. Talking to Ben and seeing the young man he had become made me feel so good, so proud. When you’re a teacher you’re not always sure of the impact you make on children or how it will play out in the years ahead. It can be very challenging being a teacher, but when you have one of those moments when you realize that you had an impact on a young person’s life, that your influence truly made a difference, that’s when you understand why you do what you do every day.”
Ben will soon be going to college. Starting yet another chapter in his life and in his educational journey. There will be lots of people responsible for what no doubt will be a successful future for this young man. Yet, despite all those who have come and gone, Miss Cindy can proudly say that he got his start, you guessed it, at Square One.