“Thank You, Mrs. Pfeil,” Liahona, July 2003, 45–46
When business meetings brought me to my childhood hometown of Mansfield, Massachusetts, I looked up the Web page of my old middle school. At the end of a list of current faculty members was Mrs. Christine Pfeil, my eighth-grade English teacher who was a truly influential person in my life.
When I was in eighth grade, difficulties at home left me angry and distracted from school responsibilities. Other teachers didn’t pay attention to my altered attitude and slipping grades, but Mrs. Pfeil took a personal interest. She would never accept less than my best. Often she would write on my assignments, “You can do better—try again.” Grudgingly, I would redo the assignment, thinking, “OK, you want something better? I’ll give you something better!” In her class, I felt intelligent and appreciated. When I left Qualters Middle School after eighth grade, I knew I could succeed scholastically because of Mrs. Pfeil’s belief in me.
As I looked at her name on the Web page that day, it suddenly seemed overwhelmingly important to tell her as soon as possible how she had influenced my life. I determined to find her, so at noon the next day, I excused myself from a business meeting and sped to Qualters.
I had just tried her locked classroom door when I saw Mrs. Pfeil walking down the hallway. “Carl Nelson!” she exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you in 25 years! What are you doing here?”
Impelled to deliver my message, I began abruptly. “I feel I need to tell you personally how important you were in my life. In eighth grade I was going through difficult times, but you expected my best. Precious few demanded that much from me then. As far as I can tell, your faith in me was the major reason I began trusting in my own abilities. I don’t know what my life would have been like without a teacher like you.”
As I spoke, Mrs. Pfeil’s eyes became wet. “I have to tell you a story,” she said. “I have always wanted to be a writer, even though I felt God wanted me to teach. Last night I was feeling hurt that I had never received any appreciation for my work. I told God that unless I received some thanks the very next day, I was going to retire from teaching and work on my writing. And now here you come after all this time to thank me on this particular day—this blessing is almost too much!”
Mrs. Pfeil and I were unable to talk longer. Her students began arriving, and I left, humbled that Heavenly Father let me share in helping one of His children. Reflecting upon my brief experience with Mrs. Pfeil, I remained impressed that no matter who we are or what church we belong to, our loving Father works in our lives to answer our prayers.