A Love Letter to My Students ❤

When I walked out of school that last Friday, March 13th, I had no idea that was the last time I would see the 8th graders of CMS. I went back a few weeks later to pick up some personal things. But when I walked into Mrs. Kreis's classroom that gray April day, it felt sad & empty.

All of the things that bring a school to life- students, teachers, the sounds of laughter- were no longer there. No kids walking into the classroom late. No one asking me for a pencil. No one to say "Put your hoodie down!" to. No kids eating lunch in my room and sharing their personal stories with me. None of the small intimate and meaningful moments that make life, life.

In 6 short weeks, I fell in love with the school & the amazing staff, but most of all with the wonderful students. The kids were animated, bright and full of life. So often we take things for granted. We always think we have all the time in the world. But we never know when something we love might suddenly be taken away from us.

Yes, school went on with distance learning. But it wasn't the same. Nothing compares to seeing a child's face and making them smile, hearing a student laugh at your corny jokes, and giving a hug to someone when they really need one.

Since I didn't have a chance to say goodbye, this is what I would have said on my last day:

Dear 8th Grade students,

I know you are all feeling stressed & worried. But you are not alone. This is one small, temporary moment in your life. Before you know it, we'll all be back to school & work again.

So please use this time at home to catch up on your sleep, enjoy time with your families, and do all of the things you love & said you never had time to do before.

I know you'll be sad if you miss graduation, band & sporting events, and 8th grade formal.

But I promise that you still have so many other wonderful & NEW things to look forward to! Soon you'll be in high school. You'll meet new friends & teachers. You'll still get to experience your high school graduation. And prom. And homecoming dances, pep rallies and football games.

And after you graduate, there will be college or tech school or traveling in the military (I was in the USAF!), graduations, birthday parties and family celebrations... getting your first job... and moving into your first apartment. You'll meet new people, and one day you'll fall in love. You'll have so many other new and exciting experiences. Friends & family who'll get married and have children... and you'll TRAVEL. Please travel as much as you can! Explore the world and see new things!

Travel is the best education! The world is an amazing place, filled will interesting people, and endless places to visit and see! So take advantage of every opportunity!

And please be kind to people; you never know what personal battles another person may be going through.

Be open-minded and try not to judge others. Everyone is different. Accept & love people exactly the way they are.

Always trust your instincts! I always feel like whatever "my gut is telling me" is right. So believe in yourself. You are all important.

Draw, paint, and WRITE!

Please keep writing in your journals. Someday you will look back at this time & wish you had written more. Be yourself and love with all your heart. Love is the most amazing thing in the world. "There are a million things you can do with your life. But love is where the most effort should go. Get that right & nothing else matters."

And please be kind to all animals. I hope when you see an animal in need, you think of me and stop and try to help it. "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

I will miss you all. You will never know how much you have all touched my heart. Please stay in touch. What are your plans after high school? If you have any news to share, I'd love to hear about it. I am always here if you need advice, need someone to listen or just want to share something new. My email: nicole.dowstassi@fcps.org

And finally, thank you ALL. You all helped to make me a better person. I genuinely enjoyed my time at CMS. I loved getting to know all of you & I am so grateful I had the chance to meet all of you. I will never forget my time at CMS.

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