Three jewels but no crown this year - Once again the Triple Crown has come to an end, after Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes last Saturday. As in past years, there was no Triple Crown winner in 2013.... More →
“Do you have a girlfriend yet?” ask the letters, written by third grade students nine years ago.
According to Jan Shalom, a retired Valley Forge Elementary School (VFES) third grade teacher, that is a very common question for the boys in her class to write to themselves. Since she started working at VFES in 1997, Shalom has been having her students write letters to their future selves, which she mails to them a couple of weeks before they graduate from high school each year. She keeps the letters in filing cabinets in her basement, along with other mementos she sends along, which range from class photos and poems they wrote for homework to love letters she found in their desks.
“It’s just funny to see what third graders want to write to themselves,” Shalom said. “Sometimes they write something about current events or ‘this year this is what happened’ and ‘what’s happening in the year 2012?’ and they’re writing for nine years in the future so it’s really mind-blowing, the whole concept.”
Shalom also writes a cover letter, which she sends out with mementos after the letters, for every student and tries to give a personal touch to each one. Last year she included journal entries from the day after 9/11, which included one where her student drew a picture of the Twin Towers on fire. This year, she is including Power Point slides from a presentation she gave for parents in which students had to tell why they were unique. When senior Caroline Scherer got her letter, her Power Point slide reminded her that Shalom had said she could light up the darkest room with her smile and her laughter.
“I think it’s so awesome that she would do that for us because it’s such an interesting thing to get nine years later,” Scherer said.
Senior Meredith DiRico will be the third member of her family to get a letter from her third grade self, courtesy of Shalom, since her two older sisters both had her as a teacher, too.
“It was funny, especially the question ‘do you have a dog yet?’ because I’ve been nagging my parents for years and we finally got one when I was in ninth grade,” DiRico said. “It was just funny to see how I finally got a dog after eight years of asking.”
While Shalom can easily send the letters to students like Scherer and DiRico, she has gone as far as trying to track down students who moved to Europe so that she could send them their letters.
“Every child likes to feel that they are valued by the adults in their life,” Shalom said. “I think that this gives kids the chance just to be reflective.”
Shalom’s dedication to the letters is in keeping with the theme of her career as a teacher—truly caring about her students. Before working in the Tredyffrin/Easttown school district, she married her husband at the elementary school she taught at with 500 students in attendance, a number of whom were a part of the ceremony. As she sent the envelopes of memories to her Class of 2012 students, she made copies of many of the letters and notes to keep and remember her students by.
“I don’t think that kids realize how important it is to teachers to hear from them,” Shalom said. “But I also think that teachers are so busy in their profession and the current class and all the work, and sometimes you just don’t have a lot of spare time, but it’s so great to be able to reach out to your former kids and just find out how they are so that they know that they touched you in a very special way.”