Dan Noel: Voices of My Teachers

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When Dan Noel is facing a difficult moment he hears the voices of a certain collection of very important people whose gifts never go away.

What I have missed most these past 11 months, even more than the touch and closeness of friends and family, is a sense of resiliency. Rather than a gently bending reed, I feel like a tall, dry California grass ready to snap under unrelenting winds.

As a law student, my breaking points come when I’m writing, when I’m called on in class, when I’m pumping myself up for yet another job interview. As I stare at a blank page or search my brain for an acceptable answer to a professor’s idiosyncratic question, I am clouded with doubt. Thankfully, in those moments, I also hear the voices of the teachers of my youth.

I hear the encouragement of Ms. V, telling me I should type out a fourth grade poem. I hear the contagious laughter of Mrs. R, finding the mirth and humor in the chaos of a looming journalism deadline. I hear Mr. E enthusiastically guiding us to the excitement of a new challenge. I hear Mr. C, passing a journal across my desk, telling me it’s mine to write in.

Most of all, I hear the measured tone of my 11th grade English teacher, Ms. G. She asks, without judgment or expectation, whether my final draft is ready. She leaves the decision to me, understanding that only I know what more I have to give in this moment. She holds a mirror. And in her steady hand, I see welcome and unexpected strength.

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I hear these voices and more, a great counterweight to the seeds of doubt sown in my mind by this pandemic. They give me confidence. Worth. They help me start a sentence, attempt an answer, smile for a multi-pane interview panel. They remind me, however overwhelming the wind, I am stronger. What resiliency I find these days, I find in them.

No one thanks teachers enough. I certainly never did. So, let me say how thankful I am. How proud I am to be a product of California public schools. And I hope any teachers hearing this know that their students are thankful too, even if they’re a world away across the screen and haven’t found the words to say it yet.

Dan Noel is a third-year law student at Berkeley Law. He is a graduate of Casa Grande High School in Petaluma, McKinley Elementary School and Kenilworth Junior High School.