A letter to a student . . .

I remember when you came to my class for the first time. You were a little nervous as to what was going to happen, but at the same time, I noticed that you had several friends there too. I just wanted to say that I am very proud of you. You have come a long way since the first of the year.

It is sad to me that I cannot say that to some students. I just found out that a student that I taught last year is going to jail for armed robbery and will have to be there for 13 years. He is only 15. That means the best years of his life will be spent incarcerated. He will be almost 30 when he gets out.

I know you are different! You have plans and goals for your life. Well, that is what he told me, too. I always told him “you become who you hang with,” and sadly, in his case he proved me right.

Please do me one favor: Graduate from high school and then decide to get a job or go to college, but don’t break my heart and become something else because of the wrong choices you make.

Please come and see me in a few years and say “I did it my way. I didn’t let other people or friends decide for me. I created my future and now can do whatever I want. I can dream whatever I want. I can accomplish whatever I want!”

Someone once asked me, “Why do you teach?” I used to give the same old worn-out answer: “Because I want to make a difference.” But now I really know why. I teach so that my students can know they have a choice to become what they want to be in life and they do not have to rely on a “so called friend” to lead them.

They can lead themselves to wherever they want to go, whoever they want to be, and then they can be the catalyst for change in someone else’s life.

From an old friend who hopes that he not only taught you a subject, but how to live a better life.

— Mr. Banks

Gregg Banks of Lizella is “Mr. Banks,” a teacher.