Teacher Judith Toensing inspired her students to reach for the stars. She encouraged them, and it paid off with a special invitation.
In the late spring, early summer of 1997, school was just ending for the sixth graders in Judith Toensing Arizona classroom. Toensing wrote a special note on the student’s reports cards. The note said, “It has been a joy to have you in class. Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation!”
Christin Gilmer was one of the students in that Arizona classroom, and she has just graduated as a doctor of public health from Harvard. Gilmer was 12 when she received that encouraging memo. She is now 33 years old. Gilmer went on to explain how this teacher was one of the first to inspire her and encouraged her to study health. Toensing spoke of human rights and international health issues. As a teacher, she shared the plight of people living with AIDS.
After hearing the story, Harvard made the decision to fly, free, Toensing out for the graduation. The speech given at Harvard by Dean Williams praised teachers who gave their time and heart to help students grow.
Judith was surprised by the invitation, more like shocked. Christin made sure to deliver the invite herself. Judith expressed feeling honored and proud to be invited to the ceremony and states she feels she is now a better and more inspired and energized teacher.
Gilmer has been infused with that same passion from her early teacher. She shares her fondness for Arizona and working with community projects and health programs that benefit people.