As with many great teachers who have faith in their students, Judith Toensing scribbled a parting note of encouragement as one of her students moved on to the next grade. In this case, Toensing was predicting exactly what would happen 21 years later.
"It has been a joy to have you in class," Toensing wrote on Christin Gilmer's sixth-grade report card. "Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation!"
That was in 1997. Last week, Toensing did indeed go to Gilmer's Harvard graduation.
Christin Gilmer, 33, wrote on Facebook in April that she would be receiving her doctorate in public health from Harvard. In her post, she thanked everyone who helped her achieve her goal, especially all of her Arizona public school teachers.
"They give so much of themselves to all of us, and because of them, I learned what community really means," she wrote.
Gilmer wrote a special note to Toensing and posted a picture of the report card after all these years.
"In a picture I still carry around, she told me on the last day of school that year that she would see me at my Harvard graduation, and now I can finally invite her (21 years later) and try to show her how grateful I am to her and all of my teachers," she wrote.
Gilmer, a global health professional with 15 years of experience working in HIV and human rights, said that Toensing was also the first person to bring her attention to the struggles faced by those living with HIV/AIDS.
When Harvard caught wind of Gilmer's sweet story, they offered to pay for Toensing's expenses to attend the graduation. Toensing accepted, and she was there to watch Gilmer graduate on May 23 and 24.
"It was a really humbling, touching and humility-inducing experience," Gilmer told ABC News. "It meant a lot to have someone there who held my hand in the early stages."
As for Toensing, she used a literary reference to express how excited she was to witness her former student's achievement.
"Congratulations Dr. Christin," Toensing wrote on Facebook. "I knew you when you were Dorothy with the red shoes and now you truly made it to OZ! ... Love you and thank you for letting me be a small part of your journey."
21 years after writing 'Invite me to your Harvard graduation' on a report card, sixth-grade teacher gets request granted
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