I never liked February. It was wet, dark, and cold, and February meant Valentine’s Day. Everything, everyone, and everywhere reminded me that it was almost Valentine’s Day and that I certainly didn’t have anyone special in my life—actually, not even a single date!

During my first year out of college I lived at home with my parents in Far Rockaway, which felt extremely far away during the panicky drive to Franklin Square, Long Island, in order to teach my very first class—28 sixth graders!  I was in a panic because I wasn’t sure what I was doing and I had just gotten my driver’s license.

My friends seemed to be in love, engaged, dating up a storm, or at the least living and working in Manhattan. My life definitely centered around writing lesson plans and thinking about how I could make life interesting for 11- and 12-year- olds. I was orchestrating medieval banquets, Greek and Italian festivals, and drilling adjectives and long division while my friends were out drinking and dancing the night away.

Valentine’s Day of that year felt particularly dismal as I drove through the rain. I stopped at my favorite diner for coffee, and even seeing the cups decorated with hearts made me sad. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

Then I walked into my classroom and saw my desk covered in envelopes. Twenty-eight smiling faces beamed at me and twenty-eight pre-teen voices cheered, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Miss Berlin!”

They'd worked hard, like these kids.

I can absolutely remember feeling my heart melting and my eyes sweetly stung by tears. I loved them all, and they loved me!  I felt as special as I could imagine any Valentine’s gesture making me feel.

I can picture them all, even though it was so many years ago. My very first class. I remember their names, their handwriting, and where they sat. There were many classes and many valentines after that, but nothing ever touched my heart like my very first Valentine’s Day as a teacher and my very first sixth-grade class. I fell in love with them and with being a teacher during that year. Not one Valentine’s Day has gone by when I haven’t remembered those 28 valentines of mine.


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  • Nancy Schneider February 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    My Darling Jody,
    You are a true inspiration.. I am proud to be a BFF.

  • Millicent February 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    What an amazing story!

    You know. Hum.

    If the students made the Valentines and if you saved them, it would make for a lovely coffee table book! You could write a longer introductory essay and maybe get a poet to do a forward or include a few poems about teachers. It would make a wonderful gift book for teachers everywhere.

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. February 13, 2012 at 7:17 am


    This was an amazine Valentine’s Day story. Memories like these make our lives so much more meaningful when they are attached to a special day in a life still in transition.
    Teachers can have such profound influence on the lives of their students and you clearly did that in this class.

    Dr. Pat