By Helaine Sanders, MSW, JD

While accompanying my son on college visits in New York City, I recalled a map of Manhattan landmarks I created for my seventh-grade social studies teacher using postcards glued to poster board. As a student, I was placed on an interdisciplinary team in which teachers worked with one another to creatively engage students. My teacher, who I now call Janet, went well beyond our expectations, involving us in creative games, taking us on unique trips, and immersing us in non-traditional learning. I only wish my sons had the benefit of such an experience during their middle school years. 

Janet and I are now friends, and when we recently met, she laughingly said, “You probably still have that map!”

Back then, when life was difficult at home, I would hang out in Janet’s classroom after school. While she wasn’t aware of what caused me so much anxiety, she was always there for me. Since then, I have learned that role models and heroines don’t have to be famous. They are often simply someone who cares, and any healthy relationship can spark these bonds. Perhaps it is because of Janet that I became a social worker after becoming an attorney and finding the litigation process to be too adversarial for me.

Everything I learned about kindness came from Janet. Now a social worker who focuses on working with adolescents, I continue to honor and embrace the values that I learned from her.

 Helaine Sanders, MSW, JD is a mental health advocate who writes and speaks on topics related to adolescent mental health. To engage Ms. Sanders to speak for your upcoming event, contact her at 716-445-8532.