I get emails throughout the year from past students now attending various high schools or colleges or even students who are married with kids! It is my hope to share some of their thoughts to prove that all of our hard work is meaningful and worth the effort.
[Have a testimonial to share? Send me an email and tell me how the lessons of the past are helping you now. All email excerpts were used with permission from the sender. If you wrote to me in the past, and I didn't post it here, please send it again. Our email program changed a year ago and I lost many emails.]
Student from 2010, Message received 2020
I’m not sure if you still remember me, considering the array of different students you’ve taught over the years, but I still fondly remember you and the significant impact you’ve made in my life. I was a part of your class of 8th graders from Lawson Middle School in 2010. Even though you talked about the difficulties involved with juggling your Masters Degree while teaching our class at the time, I still knew that every time I was in your class, you would blow me away with your intentionality and your mastery of teaching. While I could type all about how you taught me many of the vocabulary words that I still use today (such as the word “camaraderie”), or how your insightful tip of turning off autocorrect on Google Docs so that I could improve my spelling skills did indeed help me do so later on in my life, I believe that the most significant thing you have ever taught me has been your pedagogical approach.
Next week, I will officially be starting my first year as a History Teacher. And when I think back to the teachers that have significantly shaped my pedagogy, you definitely come to mind. You taught me a belief that has never left my mind since, which is the mentality of providing the best work that I can offer when I turn in a rough draft for an essay so that I can go beyond my current capabilities when I eventually turn in that final draft. You blew me away with how you mixed humor and intention in the classroom, how you encouraged students by teaching them that each and every one of them was capable of excelling in English no matter how proficient they were at that point in time, and how you showed genuine concern for struggling students like me by spending extra time with me during lunch or brunch time despite my hesitancy to do so. It still blows me away to this day.
So, I wanted to type this long overdue email to you, expressing my deep gratitude for the wisdom, support, and insight you showed me that one year in middle school. Thank you for encouraging me and for telling me that I had the potential to excel in English one day. Thank you for showing me how fun and exciting it is to learn. And thank you for being one of the teachers who has inspired me to be a teacher myself, one who has and continues to foster intergenerational change and growth in your students.
I sincerely hope that you may continue doing what you have done so amazingly over the years, and I hope that this email may find you with no errors pertaining to my grammar, spelling, and/or punctuation, despite my extremely long sentences with many commas (I still fondly remember the many instances you taught the class how commas prevent sentences from turning into run on sentences). Once again, thank you for making an impact in my life.
Student from 2014, Message received 2020:
My name probably doesn’t ring a bell, but I was in your drama class throughout my middle school years. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your class and how far it has gotten me. Recently, I was accepted into the University of Texas at Austin where I’m studying Radio-Television-Film. I was trying to remember my initial introduction to the fine arts / film and the thought took me back to 6th grade, which was when I tried out drama for the first time in your class. Along with theatre, I vaguely remember filming a commercial for class, and that was the first time I had ever held a camera, recorded video, and edited the footage to reveal a final product. This process led me to make low-quality home videos, slightly better quality youtube videos, and finally, in high school I had the opportunity to work on amateur film sets and make my own short films! Throughout college, I hope to optimize the wonderful opportunities presented to further my knowledge in film and possibly even make a feature film! Overall, I want to thank you for guiding me on this path. Although I was just one student among the hundreds that you have, you truly have been one of my favorite teachers and I will always be grateful that I took Period 6 Drama in 6th grade. ~M. U.
Student from 2016, Message received 2016:
The only reason I am not failing my current language arts class is because of you. The way you teach your class and the thoughtfulness you put into your class really shines through to your students. In eighth grade, I was horrible at writing. My sentence structure was poor, my grammar was incorrect and my vocabulary was substandard. Your class has affected my writing, analyzing, reading, listening, comprehending, and literary skills tremendously. Because of your class, I am able to ease through high school. I am so appreciative of all the valuable lessons you have taught, and they will stick with me throughout my life. ~R. L.
Student from 2009, Message received 2013:
I thought it would interest you to learn that I looked up your website today because I recently took up a tutoring job in reading/writing, and I needed to refresh myself on some basic grammar/writing mechanics. I got this job because over my years in high school, I was able to do very well all my Lit classes, as well as my SAT reading/writing, thanks to your class. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciated your class, even after all these years! Feel free to let your current students know that a college freshman is returning to your worksheets these days; they’re that golden. ~A. L.
Student from 2013, Received 2014:
I recently got my STAR test results in the mail, and I scored a perfect 600. While it’s possible that I could have gotten lucky, I think it’s because you relieved the class’s stress beforehand by making us laugh . . . Apparently you have become famous. My Lit/Writing teacher, Mrs. ****, mentioned you to one of my classmates about a week ago. She agreed that you were an awesome teacher . . . You can share this with your students if you want – some of them know me. Thank you again for being an awesome teacher. :D ~A. T.
Student from 2013, Received 2014:
I’m really hoping there aren’t any mistakes in this email because that would be pretty sad considering I’ve been one of your students . . . I wanted to thank you for all you’ve taught me last school year. I’m so much more confident in my writing, and it makes me feel absolutely amazing. Even in my Chinese class we had to write a summary and reflection in English on a movie we watched while the teacher was gone, and it felt just like the ORB book review. We’re also turning in an analytical paragraph for a short story in my literature class today, and I already knew exactly how to do it . . . Be sure to tell your current students how lucky they are to have you as a teacher, and if you wish to share this with them, you have my permission. Thank you so much. ~K. B.
ps. Don’t worry about the time stamp. We have a late start today.
Student from 1995, Received 2015
I’m a junior at Tufts University now, studying Child Development and History. I am hoping to become a social studies teacher back on the west coast when I graduate. “The Distance” by CAKE came on the radio the other day, and I thought I would send you an email. Every time I hear it I remember your rendition of it in class with a backwards hat after we had spent a significant amount of time analyzing the lyrics [during the poetry unit]. It’s crazy how much of 5th grade English I remember–the ridiculous map of Middle Earth I drew for our Hobbit unit, the research paper I wrote on Malcolm X, the in-class essays we typed on those computer-like things that were not actually computers. I realized how much I loved to read and write in your class and have compared English teachers to you ever since.
So, I just wanted to reach out and thank you for being such a formative teacher in my life and an example of the type of educator I wish to become. As I look to a future in teaching, I hope that my students are as inspired by me as I was by you and the few other exceptional teachers I had along the way. ~ M. M.
Student from 2008, Received 2014:
Dear Mr. Oncay,
I am entering my second year of college as an undergraduate, and I still remember and value the skills I gained from your class every time I read a book or write an essay. Even entering eleventh grade, in an AP English Language class, I was prepared to write up to the college standard. I was already well versed in formal essay writing skills, such as following simple rules including avoiding contractions and proper use of commas in essays. You made it fun and engaging when we learned grammar rules (is this even possible? yes! it is!) by teaching us easy acronyms that I remember to this day, such as “fanboys,” to remember the conjunctions. I not only learned how to write well and recognize good writing but also learned how to read actively. We tackled complex books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, and you taught us how to recognize the beauty of the books by prompting small group analysis and exploring literary terms with us.
Your class may be expected to teach only one grade level’s worth of material, but you have most definitely made a life-long impact on the literary competent students you create in your class. Your prompt email responses to grammar questions, funny stories about grammatically incorrect signs outdoors, and enthusiasm for grammar and literature sparked an interest in English in me that thrives to this day. ~N. V.
Student from 2009, Received 2013:
I do not know if you remember me Mr. Oncay, but I, for one, remember myself as an annoying (Sorry!) but curious student in your eight grade English class. I wanted to thank you for teaching me how to think. Thinking is probably an inconsequential task for most, but I found it to be an unused muscle – weak and reluctant. You taught me how to beat the inertia and hit the gym, or so to speak! From teaching me how to find/understand the use of literary techniques to teaching me how to write succinctly, you forced me to use my brain, previously in mint condition – untouched and unused. I am a freshman in NYU now, and I still remember your lesson on “fanboys”, “Stay gold, Ponyboy” and the meaning of said phrase, and the 67% I got on my first essay (and the 155/160 I got on your final essay). Even though I am a Honors Math and Physics major (proposed) with most of my textbooks having more Greek than English rhetoric, you, being a teacher of a subject unrelated to my field, have influenced my education more than a math teacher in my last 12 years of school. Thank you, for leaving an indelible mark on my life because now, sir, I brag about my eighth grade education in English. ~S. R.
Student from 2008, Received 2013:
I am just writing you this letter that your class that year has impacted me throughout my high school career up to now. During high school, your ways of “diagramming the sentences” have helped me in my SAT’s and in writing essays. Every time I see problems within my grammar or sentence structure, I always had to refer to the notes and examples that you have provided years ago for guidance, and thus got me as far as to Biola University, where I attend right now. At Biola, I am studying Biblical Greek Grammar. In order to translate sentences and words from Greek to English, you must know a significant amount of proper English in order to distinguish which words are in past tense, present tense, or even perfect tenses. Thus, your methods of finding adjectives, nouns, and verbs within the sentences also led me to keep up in the class and work surprisingly well through this difficult language. To conclude, this is just a cheesy way to say thanks for your hard work. I still value you to this day as a wonderful teacher and as a good person. Thank you. ~N. W.