Thank you, Esther Perrin! by
(16 Stories)

Prompted By Favorite Teacher

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If there were a fitting phrase to describe my academic prowess in elementary school, I believe I would have been described as an  “airhead”, My elementary school reports were mediocre.  My kindergarten report  card was sprinkled with a few “N’s” for “Needs Improvement”, and  the comment on my kindergarten report card  was  “talks too much and loves to dance for the class.” My parents didn’t seem to care.  I was a girl and they had my  brilliant older brother  to brag about. 

My parents had very low expectations for me academically. They  saw me as  affable, talented in music, with  average intelligence. I once heard my father say, “It’s a good thing she’s pretty!”  My mother had been  a good math student and had an amazing talent with words. She would do the Sunday NY Times crossword quickly and in ink.   I  felt I was a disappointment to her for not having the same skills. 

My first few years  I glided  through the school system as an uninspired  student.  But there were glimmers of hope when in  the fifth grade I  was lucky to be in Mrs. Perrin’s class and received an “outstanding” in social studies!  Surprised, I asked her why.  I had never received anything better than an “S” for “Satisfactory” by any teacher.  She said, “Because you are  excellent  in social studies”!  

So Mrs. Perrin was the first teacher to make me feel really good about myself, and she became my all time favorite.   Fast forward 12 years and I found my first job in my old elementary school which had been converted into a junior high. My first day on the job was meeting  my  8th grade class and I felt overwhelmed by the administration of delaney cards, seating charts, attendance and,  most of all, discipline.  Mrs. Perrin was still on staff and remembrered me! She swooped into my classroom and guided me through my first day jitters.

I have to admit, however, that It was a little awkward for me when i mingled  with the  staff in the teachers’ room.  I loved chatting with the fellow teachers but  I could not bring myself to call Mrs. Perrin  by her first name.    In the few years that our careers overlapped at JHS 127 in the Bronx, I could never call her “Esther”.   But the  greatest satisfaction I had was not only working with my beloved 5th grade teacher who gave me confidence in myself.  It was because I was now licensed by the New York City Board of Education to teach … studies!

Profile photo of Sara Gootblatt Sara Gootblatt

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Sara, I know your affinity for politics and history, but didn’t know how far back that went!

    And wonderful that you and Mrs Perrin became colleagues at JHS 127, my alma mater!

  2. Marian says:

    What a gift Mrs. Perrin gave you, Sara, to steer your life differently. It’s sad that parents’ expectations can be too low, too high, or just off target, so I am glad that you, with Mrs. Perrin’s help, found social studies and ended up teaching at the same school.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    You’ve given a great example of how one person’s belief in you can change the whole trajectory of your life, Sara. Mrs. Perrin’s grade and praise gave you the confidence to succeed and set you on your path. It is remarkable how much people influence and mold us when we are young. Thank goodness you had Mrs. Perrin in your life. She was even there on your first day of teaching to guide you through the bumps in the road there too. Hooray for her and for you, since you clearly demonstrated that you were up to the task.

  4. Susan Bennet says:

    Oh Sara, what a lovely story. Talk about coming full circle – from your childhood social studies triumph to your adult social studies triumph, from being first a student and then a teacher in the same school, and all nurtured by the wise and wonderful Mrs. Perrin. I’m sure she was bust-buttons proud of you and certainly aware of how much she had inspired you.

    I had to laugh when you mentioned how you were not able to call her “Esther.” I substitute taught in my former high school for a few months in my twenties and had the same experience with one of my former teachers still there. Though just a sub, I was proud to be back at my school as a “teacher”. Well done.

  5. Suzy says:

    How sad that your parents had such low expectations of you. Thank goodness Mrs. Perrin came along and made you feel good about yourself! And then 12 years later she helped you on your first day of teaching. Wonderful!

    I had to google “delaney cards” because I had never heard of them. Looks like it’s a way to make a seating chart and keep track of student information. Only used in New York City, as far as I can tell.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    Great story. Hooray for you and your teacher who cared. I imagine you may have inspired students of your own, and passed on the positive experience, changing the world just a bit.

  7. Great story, Sara. I especially like your memory of “outstanding” in social studies. A lonely light along a dim path, but one that illuminated everything. I wonder what about social studies was different than the other subjects (maybe it was your teacher).

  8. Laurie Levy says:

    How lucky you were to both have Mrs. Perrin as a teacher and later as a colleague. For so many students, it just takes that one special teacher to ignite the spark of learning. I’m sure her influence helped you to pass this on to the students you taught.

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