Wilton Warrior Words: A teacher’s lesson

Olivia Vitarelli

Olivia Vitarelli

Hearst Connecticut Media

Recently, someone asked me to name the person who has had the strongest influence on my life thus far. While I initially rejected the question due to its dispiriting reminiscence of a college application question, I eventually invested myself in providing a thoughtful answer.

Because seniors enjoy the thrilling yet vexing awareness that everything will soon change, reflection has become a very prominent aspect of our lives, or at least mine. I continued considering the question throughout the day and came to the ultimate conclusion that there is no one person who has been the sole proprietor of my life’s inspiration. We are influenced by all of the people we interact with (those we have read about, met in passing, or known our whole lives), for better or for worse. I am blessed to be conversant with the merits of many incredible people. If I could be an amalgamation of them, even just reflect a pinch of their magic in my own being, I would consider myself very lucky.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that many of these influences are people who I see every day at Wilton High School. In the spirit of reflection and the expression of gratitude, I figured I would deliver a thank-you note to the teachers who have influenced my life over the years.

The first Wednesday of my freshman year, I walked into the Little Theater and met my adviser, Mr. Slater. I still marvel at my luck. It always comforts me to know that he is in the building. His genuine and unfaltering compassion for the well-being of each person in the school is known and appreciated. Mr. Slater always has an endless stream of stories, knowledge, and advice to offer. In addition to being an incredible teacher, he is an incredible mentor and friend who goes out of his way to help students. Mr. Slater improves the lives of all students who are lucky enough to know him. Oftentimes, when I face a problem, I attack it as he would. I consider a wide range of factors: potential solutions, their pros and cons, and who they affect. Channeling Mr. Slater in my daily life readies me to take anything on, and I am thankful for the opportunity I have had over the past four years to get to know him.

My sophomore year was the beginning of an indispensable relationship with Dr. Harvey, an inspiring teacher who fosters a learning environment where productivity and joy coexist. She is selfless in her pursuit to ensure that every single student feels special and uniquely valued. Her ability to leave everyone feeling more joyful and grateful than they were before interacting with her is a quality I try to emulate in my daily life. I strive to let others know that I care for and value them because Dr. Harvey has shown me the extreme impact that that can have. Beyond being a phenomenal teacher in her field who makes learning exciting, Dr. Harvey teaches me about society and what it means to help others — what it means to bring people together with kindness and humility.

Also my sophomore year, I began learning from Ms. DeLude. Ms. DeLude has an incredibly dynamic personality, is proud and confident of it, and yet is utterly vulnerable and down to earth. She has shown me that our worth is determined, before intelligence or talent, by how we treat others. Through both advice and example, Ms. DeLude taught me that one must combat uncertainty with boldness. One must never give the world anything less than their confident and unapologetic self. When I find myself in any new and unfamiliar situations (and I will be in many more of those come the fall), I channel Ms. DeLude’s fearless spirit to drown out self-doubt.

To all the teachers who go out of their way to help their students, listen to them, and care for their well-being in addition to their academic growth, thank you. This year, I have a teacher who has a contagious passion for the material she teaches. Not only that, but she also has been extremely understanding and supportive through the stressful trials of being a senior. So thank you, Mrs. Eckenrode, and thank you to all the teachers who have guided and supported me along the way. You all have taught me more about life than any content from a textbook.

Olivia Vitarelli is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.