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Gifts do not always come in a box with a bow.

Updated on February 6, 2015


Over the years, I have received some really special gifts from former students and each gift as wonderful as its giver. I have taught 5th grade – Community College Developmental Reading.

Some of the gifts do not come in a box with a bow.

To this day, I have a copy of a teacher evaluation completed by one of my students who sat in my developmental reading class. Students who did not pass the Reading Entrance Exam were required to take the developmental reading class. And what an awesome group of students: An interesting mix of students who had recently graduated from high school along with middle-aged folks who had recently been laid off from the local knitting factory. To say we had incredible discussions is such an understatement. While I was fortunate to receive high marks from all my evaluators, the student who gifted me with his comments was one of the young men who had recently graduated from high school.

“Dear Mrs. Houck,

As you know I am in your class because I did not make a high enough score on the entrance test. I graduated from high school not knowing how to read. And now, all I want to do is read. Mrs. Houck, you have done in one semester what my teachers apparently did not do in 4 years of high school. You have taught me to see there are so much more to a book or story than just the words on the page. You have opened up a world I never knew existed.”

In addition to teaching the developmental reading class a couple of nights a week, the community college had also hired me to be the GED/AHSD instructor for a new program, a collaboration between Wilkes Community College, New River Behavioral Health, Ashe Partnership for Children and Ashe Literacy League. Our students were teenage parents or soon to be teenage parents. It was kind of like having my own one-room schoolhouse. While the teenagers worked with me on getting their choice: a GED or Adult High School Diploma, those already with children did not have to worry because their children were being taken care of by a wonderful woman. Most chose the faster GED route, but there were some who only lacked a few credits and chose the AHSD. And I would have never left, if it had not been for a phone call I received. The principal from Blowing Rock called and asked me to interview for a middle school position teaching science and reading. And I still would not have made the switch, but he offered me health insurance –something I did not have and felt like I really needed in case something ever happened to my sons. So, I took the job and the long drive that came along with it. I spent my second year at Blowing Rock teaching 5th grade.

In order to meet the obligations of an existing collaboration, this time between Watauga County Schools, Watauga County Arts Council and New York Metropolitan Opera Guild, I was sent to Montgomery, Alabama for one week in order to be trained on how to supervise students as they created their own opera. You have never really been on an adventure until you have supervised a reading class of 20 5th graders (16 boys and 4 girls) as they create their own opera. It was the day before the students would present their opera that I had to do something that I did not know if I would really be able to do, but having done it, I believe I made a positive impact on all the students. I had to make good on a promise. After many warnings, one on one chats, behavioral contracts, and meetings with mom and dad, it had been decided that if our main opera actor interfered one more time with the goal of the presentation, he would not be allowed to participate in the opera. Because he was the main opera actor, replacing him at the last minute would mean putting even more stress on the existing members. The day before the presentation, I fired the main opera actor. The show went on. Our opera producer, an incredibly shy student stepped in and performed beautifully. The student who I was forced to fire still came to the opening show. After the show, the boy and his parents came up to me and asked me if they could speak to me privately. Naturally, I said, “Yes,” but really not exactly sure what to expect.

To my surprise, the student and his parents thanked me for following through on what I had said I would do, and while the the kid had learned so many cool things during the creating of the opera, he now knew the importance of doing what you say you will do.

In case you are curious, my degree is in English/Secondary Education with a minor in Philosophy/Religion.

And eventually, I made my way to the high school...i e...secondary education as the English teacher for a new program designed to keep kids in school who had been identified as at-risk for dropout. In order to qualify for the program, students had to be capable of grade level work. The overwhelming majority of the students were in the program because of attendance issues. What so many did not seem to understand was that attendance issues could not be solved by implementing tougher attendance policies. Regardless of the mindset of those who created more obstacles, our small team of teachers carried on working endlessly to keep these kids in school which brings me to the last gift I would like to share with you. Some of you already know this, but for those of you who do not know, my mom has a rare form of cancer. This means she has lots of doctor appointments. After taking her to a doctor’s appointment, I managed to get her to agree to go out to lunch before returning home. While we were eating our lunch, one of my former “at-risk” students came in the restaurant. He came over and we chatted. I learned that he was now married and doing well, and just there picking up an order. Just seeing him and seeing that he was doing well was a gift in of itself; however, when it came time to pay for the meal, the waiter said the bill had been paid and handed me a piece of paper:

Ms.Houck, If it had not been for you, I would not have graduated from high school.

Some gifts do not come in a box with a bow.

© 2015 ocfireflies


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    • ocfireflies profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from North Carolina


      Having been there, then I know you understand. There is so much in the news regarding education. My teaching career spanned so many directions I had not been expecting nor had I been prepared. Teaching one's area of study is one thing, but repeatedly being asked to teach outside of that training certainly allowed me to learn tons. Most of the time I feel as if I know a little about a lot rather than a lot about any thing. SMiles. Thank you for all the supportive vote and shares. I know by the quality of your hubs, you are not just an awesome person, but an exemplary teacher. To share your same space is an honor.

      Much Love,


    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      I forgot to mention - voted up and shared everywhere - facebook, twitter, pinterest, google and HP. This is a hub everyone should read and ponder.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      3 years ago from Taos, NM

      Kim: thanks for sharing this with us. You are a wonderful and creative teacher who understands her students well. You implemented creative strategies for your struggling students with kindness, love and discipline. Teaching is such a wonderful profession (I too am a secondary teacher) and the rewards are intangible as you state. Yes, not all gifts come in a box with a red ribbon around it and your experiences surely prove that. Kudos to you for being brave enough to teach 5th graders. I only taught the little ones once, when I piloted a gifted program for a school I was working at many years ago. That was enough of the little ones for me - I prefer middle school and high school age students. This write is so inspirational and proves what a special caring person and teacher you are. Again thanks for sharing this with us. Just beautiful.

    • ocfireflies profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from North Carolina


      How I would love to have known you then and maybe had the opportunity to meet you in person. It was a fascinating week. Getting to visit The Civil Rights Memorial was definitely a highlight. The New York Metropolitan Opera Guild facilitated the workshop and there were teacher representatives at the training from all over the country. While I was exhausted at the end of the training, I learned so many cool things.


      When you are in the classroom, you really do not have time to think about much other than the tasks at hand, so it is nice to be able to look back and reflect upon those special times.


      Thank you for your kind words.


      Since I have been out of the classroom for a little while now, I don't hear, "Ms. Houck" as before. And, it is you my friend along with so many others who have made me feel welcome and safe enough to share.


      The story is a good one, very much a Romeo and Juliet kind of story. If you visit "The Blowing Rock," some folks are a little disappointed for really all there is to see is a Rock, but when you stand there, you definitely feel the pull/power of the wind.


      Congratulations. You are about to embark on nothing like you have ever experienced. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help even if you just need someone to listen in order for you to vent. Smiles. What subject area will you be teaching?

      Blessings to all, thank you for the vote/shares. Thank you for being so awesome.


    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      3 years ago from Reno NV

      Kim, this came at the perfect time. I am taking an alternative route to licensure and should be in a classroom by Fall. I am so excited to start my journey. Thank you for sharing. Your friend, Jamie.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow; thank you for that Kim; that would make a great hub story!!! Had I known all that I would have stopped for sure! Maybe one day...

    • CrisSp profile image


      3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Now, that is a very beautiful story Ms Houck and yes, indeed gifts do not always come in a box with a bow. Sometimes, they come in a place called HP where good people like you spreads some love by writing and sharing experiences.

      Very uplifting hub and I am so very pleased to know you here Kim.

      Up+++ and sharing.

      Love from the sky ~

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A very interesting hub! You so greatly expressed the meaning of true gift.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      3 years ago from Norfolk


      This hub exudes warmth and I have no doubt at all that you are a wonderful teacher Kim

      You are so right gifts do not always come gift wrapped and sometimes it takes a long time for us to realize how special those gifts were until much later.



    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Ah, now, what beautiful gifts you have received in knowing that you have impacted the lives of others ... and they most assuredly received a beautiful gift from you ... your time and love in seeing that they succeed.

      I did not know you were or are a teacher and missed that somehow, but I know without a doubt, you are one amazing teacher from just reading your writing here.

      That is so interesting that you were in the city in which I work here in the deep south.

      Please keep shining your light and making an impact on the lives of others.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Peace and blessings always

    • ocfireflies profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh Jackie,

      You must let me know the next time you are passing by Blowing Rock.

      Before 1752, when Moravian Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg visited the Blowing Rock area, the windy cliffs of the area were home to the Cherokee and the Catawba Indian tribes, hostile to each other, and the basis for the story of “The “Blowing Rock”.

      Two star-crossed lovers, one from each tribe, were walking near The Rock when the reddening sky signaled to the brave that he must return to his tribal duty, and the maiden urged him to stay with her. His desperation in choosing between duty and love caused him to leap from the edge of the gorge toward the rocks below, while the maiden beseeched the Great Spirit to bring him back to her. The famous winds of the John’s River Gorge blew her lover back into her arms, and this legend about The Blowing Rock is still told today.

      Thank you for your kind words and for your support.


      Coming from you, such kind comments are appreciated and then some... I know you make the difference in the lives of others.


      Thank you for your encouragement. It is not easy for me to open up, so your kindness when I do means more than I could ever say.

      Thank you for your vote/shares.

      Blessings to you both,


    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Kim, those are the most precious gifts of all, not many of us actually get the opportunity to change someone's life for the better? Beautiful and heartfelt. A few more teachers like you, and there can be real hope for the future. A wonderful share, I feel I know you a little better, although I already knew you were pretty special just reading your poems. Each time you grace one of my hubs with a comment, you leave a gift.

      Voting up and sharing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      How beautiful Kim; thank you so much for sharing this. You have been a wonderful teacher I know and nothing to do with what you have shared but just knowing you here is enough to know that. May God bless you and everyone you love. We already know God loves you and everyone you love.

      I have passed Blowing Rock so many times and wanted to go there but never have. Always wondered how it got that name.

      Up and shared.


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