My name is Alex Goodwin, and as I write this, I am just weeks away from receiving my diploma from South Eugene High School. My path to graduation day was an improbable one, and I would not be here without the support and compassion I received from the incredible teachers who guided my way. So as I close one chapter in my life and begin the next, I want to take a moment on Teacher Appreciation Day to honor the people who helped me beat the odds.
School was always a refuge for me from the troubles I saw at home. My family struggled financially throughout my childhood, and my father suffered from depression and alcoholism. When I reached 9th grade, I dove head-first into my AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). My teacher, Bobbi Willis, helped me see myself as a college student and I began preparing for life after high school. But early into my sophomore year, the unthinkable happened. We were evicted from our home, and on that same day, my father took his own life.
The days and months that followed were a freefall. My brother and I moved into a shelter while our mother, who was reeling with grief herself, scrambled to find a roof to put over our heads.
I kept my pain to myself, and would have continued to do so, had Bobbie Willis not intervened. She approached me in private to ask if I would let my AVID class support me. She helped me break the news to my classmates, who surrounded me with love and encouragement. Bobbie helped me find a second family amongst my community at South, and that support helped me thrive.
My pre-calculus teacher, Tamara Torrence, became a rock for me to stand on as well. On days when I struggled to clear my mind, she moved deadlines so I wouldn’t fall behind. In moments when I needed someone to listen, she was never too busy to lend an ear and offer words of encouragement.
As my confidence grew, I became excited to discover what my future has in store for me. I got involved with the National Honors Society, and became engrossed in my Business and Marketing CTE class, as well as my International Foods and Catering class. My teachers in both courses, Joel Kuiper and Gregory Dunkin, inspired me about life beyond the classroom, and set examples for me that continue to influence how I approach work. They gave me my first exposure to the food industry, and now I will be working in that industry while I earn my college degree. I have Joel and Gregory to thank for both the references and the experience that helped me get the job.
Finding support at school gave me the confidence to chart my own course and write my own story. There was a time when I couldn’t believe that I would make something of myself, but Bobbie, Tamara, Joel, Gregory, and the rest of the amazing teachers at South showed me how wrong that thinking was.
Education is powerful – it’s where you plant the seed that grows into what your legacy will be. So on this Teacher Appreciation Day, I want to acknowledge the fact that teachers do so much more than lead classes and hand out grades. In my case, they made me believe in myself, and gave me the knowledge, skills and confidence to make my own mark on this world. For that, I am forever grateful, and hope I can have the same impact on others someday that they had on me.