Most people know Judith Toensing as the quirky high school instructor who teaches sixth-graders social studies, but for one of her previous students, Christin Gilmer, Judith is nothing short of a miracle worker who made a surprisingly accurate prediction about her student’s future – which came true 21 years later!
Teacher’s Powerful Words of Encouragement
Judith Toensing wasn’t just an ordinary high school teacher – she believed in her students’ abilities and inspired them to reach the greatest heights of success. The instructor’ words of encouragement especially had a powerful impact on a young girl in her third-grade 21 years ago.
In 1997, Christin Gilmer received a sweet note from Toensing attached to her end-of-the-year report card in which her third-grade teacher commended her for performing well in class and told her to keep up the good work in the future. But what was really striking about the inspiring note was the part where Toensing wrote, “Invite me to your Harvard graduation!” 21 years later, the third-grade teacher’s wish came true.
Last week, Christin Gilmer completed her Ph.D. in public health from Harvard University, and in one of the most joyous moments of life, she didn’t forget her sixth-grade teacher Toensing, whose words of encouragement 21 years ago had served as the motivational force behind all of her academic achievement.
Gilmer was only 12-years-old when she finished third grade, but she kept her teacher’s note with her all these years. Last week, the now-33-year-old doctor of public health didn’t forget to invite one of her biggest inspirators to her graduation from Harvard.
Harvard Honors Sixth Grade Teacher
In an interview with CNN, Gilmer said that she was deeply touched by the teacher’s words, and the fact that someone outside her family cared so much about her academic goals and believed in her ability to realize her dreams, meant a lot to her.
The Harvard graduate wrote a letter to Toensing a while ago to show her gratitude towards everything the third-grade instructor had once taught her. The lessons she learned from Toensing eventually led her to choose a career in public health. In the ‘thank you’ letter, Gilmer said that Miss Judy (Judith) was the first mentor in her life to educate her about HIV/AIDS as well as other human rights and global health issues.
The heartfelt letter went viral and caught the attention of the Harvard administration. In order to honor Toensing’s, who had requested Gilmer in the 1997 note to invite her to her Harvard graduation, the Dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Michelle Williams, personally sent her an invitation letter asking her to attend the 2018 convocation.
In the letter, Williams thanked Toensing for the important work she does of not just teaching students but also encouraging them to choose a path of humanitarian service.
Toensing’s Reaction to the Invite
Toensing said that she was shocked and humbled to receive the invitation letter from the Dean of Harvard school of public health. The third-grade teacher revealed in a CNN interview that Gilmer had delivered the letter to her in person a few weeks before the graduation.
The elementary school teacher said that hearing about Gilmer’s academic achievements didn’t surprise her at all since she had always believed that she would be able to achieve her goals. As a teacher, Toensing considers it her duty to have high expectations of her students and to ensure that they receive the motivational support they need to meet those expectations.
Gilmer told CNN that Toensing always encouraged her students to find ways to help others and taught them that education is the most powerful tool for being a great public servant. While under Toensing’s mentorship, Gilmer and the rest of her class fellows participated in a number of public health projects including meeting the mayor and presenting ideas on recycling, 15 years before the practice was adopted their town of southern Arizona.
The 33-year-old graduate says that she is blessed to have attended some of the best educational institutions in the word and she can’t wait to return to her town and start new projects in health and community development sectors. Meanwhile, Toensing plans to continue teaching Social Studies to sixth and eighth-graders and inspire more students to embark on the path of humanitarian services.