One of the most satisfying experiences of my Freshman year was a trip to Sacramento to protest Governor Schwartzenegger’s proposed education budget cuts. We spent the day buttonholing members of the assembly, touring the state capitol building, and demonstrating. The whole experience happened only because of the determination of Ms Mistry. She raised money; she arranged for the buses, parent chaperones, and meetings with individual legislators; she even bought pizzas for everyone at the organizing meetings with her own money.
Ms Mistry chose a classmate and me to represent Berkeley High in meetings with members of the California Assembly. This role made me feel, for the first time, that I had an important place in my enormous and somewhat impersonal school and could make a difference there. It also made me feel that I had a place in the world.
Ms Mistry’s classroom was always alive with ideas. She got her students interested in current events and politics. We talked about what we read in the newspaper and how it related to whatever we were studying.
Ms Mistry created a comfortable classroom. I never worried about coming up with the right or wrong answer. She had unlimited energy and devotion for her students. She would stay up all night grading papers or preparing for a field trip and come to school the next morning as enthusiastic as ever. She would eat only a bite or two of lunch—once, she told me that her lunch consisted of five almonds—because her students needed to talk to her.
Ms. Mistry rarely complained. Instead she always worried that she wasn’t getting through to some of her students but didn’t see that she made a difference just by trying so hard and not giving up. She was always ready with a hug—with a huge one when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher.
The day before the trip to Sacramento, Ms Mistry drove a classmate and me to a meeting in Oakland. At the meeting, we practiced talking to legislators and planned the trip. She insisted on driving me home, even though it was out of her way. On the freeway, she missed an exit and got lost. It was late, and I knew she had more planning to do and papers to grade, but she kept laughing and said it didn’t really matter.
It is hard for me to believe that Ms Mistry is gone. The loss of her warmth and vitality is truly terrible. It was especially hard for me to come back to school this year because I wasn’t able to see her or talk to her about my classes and projects, or my worries and hopes. However, her loss has made me determined to become the kind of teacher that she was, so that some part of her survives. I can still hear the sound of her voice, and I will go on hearing it for a long time.