So I debated about whether or not to post this.  I've never been a fan of people using social media solely to portray their seemingly "perfect" lives.  But in the end, I consider this blog my scrapbook, my diary, and my journal.  And because this is something very special to me, I feel the need to document it.  I know someday I'll appreciate looking back on it and smiling. 

I have a student...well, had a student...for two years.  Once in geometry as a sophomore and again in algebra 2 as a junior.  I love having students two years in a row.  It always brings a level of comfort on the first day of school and I feel a closer connection with those students in the end.  As a teacher, you're not supposed to have favorites, but let's be honest - we all do.  This girl I'm referring to is one of mine.  She comes from a fantastic family and has a great head on her shoulders.  She was always an amazingly hard worker, which is all I can ask for as a teacher.  Not to mention, I've trusted her enough to come to our house and babysit Brantley on a number of occasions.  I definitely can't say the same for the majority of my students!

Anyway, she sent me an email this week that read:

Hi Mrs. Sides! I was asked to represent Mill Valley and write an essay for the Kansas City Star about a teacher who made a difference in my life outside of academics during a hard time. I chose you and I have attached the essay in case you wanted to read it :) Thanks for being the best!

I was surprised at the email and very honored to be the subject of her essay, as I had no idea she was even writing such.  And then I read it.  And it literally brought tears to my eyes.

There may be days when I'm down, frustrated, annoyed--you-name-it--with my job, but then there are times like this when I'm thankful to be in the position I am.  Here is her essay.


I have been blessed over the past 12 years with a lot of passionate and kind teachers, however, one sticks out in my mind when I think about a particular time in my life. My junior year of high school, I found myself sitting on my couch in between my parents looking at my brother across the room and hearing the “cancer” come out of my dad’s mouth. My dad had squamous cell carcinoma; cancer of the tonsils. It was totally healable but it would take some serious medicine and months of pain and patience to overcome.

All of my teachers knew about it and my math teacher Sarah Sides, who I had always gotten along with, reached out to me almost everyday to check on how I was doing and if there was anything she could do. She would randomly call me down to her room to give me a hug and tell me it was going to be okay. Her intentions were sincere and her attitude meant more to me than anyone will ever know. Being in a school and seeing other kids that are happy and healthy with happy and healthy families was not exactly a walk in the park during a time of sickness.

It was hard to pay attention in class knowing my dad was in a hospital getting needles poked in him or radiation aimed at his throat. Going home at the end of the day was bittersweet because I just wanted to be there all the time to help him but the hardest thing about the whole process was seeing the strongest, most important person in my life, in the worst pain ever. Every Thursday I stay after school to work on the yearbook and a few months in to my dad’s treatment, I was having a rough day and before I went to yearbook, I went straight to Mrs. Sides’ room and broke down. It was the first time I had cried in front of anyone since I found out about his diagnosis. What helped me wasn’t what Mrs. Sides said, what she did or even what she didn’t do. Just the fact that she was there and had an empty room for me to come cry in and be in when I needed to was the biggest thing in the world to me.

Not once did Mrs. Sides treat me differently in class and I was very appreciative for that. I did not really want to make a big deal out of my dad’s situation because I always put on a happy face and a strong front when I was at school. I’m *******, not the girl whose dad has cancer. Being at school and acting like nothing was wrong was so hard but having a haven to break down in while I was in that dark place was a lifesaver to me.

Mrs. Sides’ words and hugs and support always flooded my mind when I was at home having a rough day and couldn’t go to her classroom. She was the first one I called when I found out he was cancer-free. She’s the one I still go to when I’m having a bad day. Mrs. Sides was not only a great teacher that helped my get my first A in a math class, she has taught me more about life than I will ever be able to thank her enough for. She has taught me that there is much more to a person than their problems. She taught me that there’s more to school than learning and sports. She taught me that high school does not have to be a scary place and that I don’t need to ever be alone. Mrs. Sides is what I often call my guardian angel. In fact, for Christmas last year, I bought her a Willow Tree Angel that is holding an apple. Mrs. Sides is my hero and someone I strive to be like every day of my life. If I am half as compassionate as Mrs. Sides when I’m older, I will be able to say that I am successful. This world needs more Mrs. Sides’. 


  1. Awh Sarah that's awesome! So glad you did share, its not bragging its sharing a cool moment and shows how awesome of a teacher you really are! :) what an awesome student and so cool youve been there for her during a difficult time.

  2. This is the sweetest thing ever. What an honor!! You should be very proud and what a good teacher you are :-) those kids are lucky to have you!!

  3. Oh my gosh Sarah! This essay almost made me cry! This is so sweet! You are such an amazing teacher with some amazing students! Please keep doing such a great job! I seriously hope Sydney has teachers like you.