In 1997, a young Christin Gilmer got a report card from her Class 6th teacher Judith Toensing with a handwritten note: 'Invite me to your Harvard graduation.' Twenty years later, Christin Gilmer, now a 33-year -old woman, did just that. Christin graduated from Harvard as a doctor of public health this week and among those present to see her receive her degree, was the sixth-grade teacher from Arizona.
Toensing teaches in the small town of Yuma in Arizona, in a public school where many of the students qualify for free lunch. In an inspiring note for the 12-year-old Judith, she had said: "It has been a joy to have you in class. Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation!."
For all these years, Judith kept the message close to her heart. She treasured how someone knew her so intimately and believed in her dreams and ability. Judith wrote a thank you note to her teacher telling her how she was the first person to encourage her in the journey of studying public health.
The letter of gratitude caught the attention of Harvard too and the school administrators decided to honor Toensing by inviting her to the 2018 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's convocation, free of cost.
During the convocation, Dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was all praises for Toensing and all teachers for the "immeasurably important" work they do. "You don’t just teach young people. You inspire them, and you propel them along a path of fulfillment and service to others. Your work is what makes our work possible. Thank you for everything you do, and please keep sending students our way," Michelle said during the convocation.
Gilmer went to meet Toensing to personally deliver her the invitation from Harvard. She was shocked to see her old student but the emotional teacher was humbled by the gesture.
As a student in Toensing's class, Gilmer and other sixth-graders wrote a 100-page prospectus, interviewed the mayor, and envisioned how recycling could work in their town 15 years before it actually happened.