The Perfect Pencil


Drew is not a student of mine, but we see each other around the college campus where I teach. When he heard about the Chalk and Chances project, he stopped by my office to tell me about Mrs. Perkins, his high school English teacher.

Mrs. Perkins was my Advanced Placement Literature teacher during my senior year in high school. It was a challenging class, but she found creative ways to encourage her students. She had a box of pencils with a personalized message printed on each, “Mrs. Perkins is proud of me.” When a student accomplished something impressive, Mrs. Perkins would bestow a pencil. Seniors are too cool for most classroom celebrations. However, we all coveted the “Perkins Pencil.” Mrs. Perkins was undeniably kind, but she was not easily impressed. It was a real honor to receive a pencil. I remember receiving mine when I achieved a high score on a practice test. I used it sparingly so that I wouldn’t sharpen it past the words printed on its side.

On our last day in Mrs. Perkins class, I felt mixed emotions. I was ready to leave high school, but I felt anxious about starting the next chapter. I was going to a college far from home, and I wasn’t sure that I was ready for college level work. Mrs. Perkins, as usual, knew what her students needed to hear. She reminded us that we had worked hard and learned much. She assured us that we were well prepared.

A few months later, I was packing for college. While cleaning out my backpack, I found a pencil in one of the pockets. I picked it up and read the words, “Mrs. Perkins is proud of me.” I carefully put it back in the pocket. I felt the nerves and anxiety ease. I knew I was ready, and I had the perfect pencil for all of the tests to come.

Drew’s story illustrates the importance of sending positive messages to students. It is also a reminder that students often attribute great meaning to small things. How did a teacher recognize your achievements or help you prepare for challenges? Please share in the comments below.

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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