Students maintain friendships with former teachers


Yanni Simmons

CATCHING UP. Sophomores Bella de la Cerna and Kendall Clark visit with lower school teacher Linda Weide. Other former students of Michael Silverman frequently re-visit his classroom.

Mira Costello, Assistant Editor

For high schoolers, fourth grade is a distant thought. Classes have gotten harder. Workloads have gotten heavier.

Memories have faded and old friendships have changed.

But for some students, visiting teachers from their younger years is routine. Maintaining contact with the teachers leads to close friendships, helping the students keep the nostalgia alive while gaining a valuable mentor relationship.

Sofia Damer-Salas has been visiting her fourth grade teacher, Michael Silverman, for seven years.

“Mr. Silverman gave all of his students confidence to do whatever they wanted,” she said. “I actually woke up excited for school during fourth grade.”

Anya Gazes, another former student of Mr. Silverman, also said that this teacher’s unmatched kindness inspired her.

“His class gave me a really different outlook on school,” she said. “Mr. Silverman showed us all that school should be fun and enjoyable, and that we should have a good relationship with our peers and teachers.”

Anya internalized the right message.

Mr. Silverman said he tries to emphasize to his students that they’re always welcome, and invites students he sees in the halls because he knows it takes initiative to remain close with them.

“It makes me feel great to have them come back,” he said. “There’s no way to maintain a relationship with just a smile and an ‘It’s good to see you.’ You have to carve out time to be with each other and talk.”

But why stop by all these years later? Anya and Sofia said they enjoy reminiscing about the memories in his class, but that their relationship extends beyond that.

“He told us that we are welcome to visit him anytime, and no other teacher has told me that,” Anya said, adding that most students weren’t nearly as close with their other teachers.

“He never treated us like little kids. He has always been genuinely interested in our lives, which is so great,” she said. “I think we all see him as someone who we can always go to for anything, just to hang out or to talk.”

Mr. Silverman said that beyond just reminiscing, his visitors take solace in his company as a good listener about the increasing stress in their lives.

“Sometimes they just get things off their chest that they’re frustrated about,” he said. “It’s a safe place to vent for some kids, I think.”

Sofia said she feels the same way.

Her visits are no longer weekly, having become more spaced out with age, but the relationship has still stuck.

“Although I’ve liked my other teachers, none of them were able to foster such a safe and warm environment,” she said. Sophia remarked that Mr. Silverman cares for his students and hopes he is uplifted by their enduring relationships with him.

Sophia was right — Mr. Silverman relies on the visits just as much as his current and former students do, so much that he suggested a formal visiting program for middle and high school students and their lower school teachers.

“It would be great if there was a lunch program where homeroom teachers in the lower school publicly made themselves a little bit available at certain times,” he said. “There are some days when if I see an old student or they come and visit me, sometimes that is the absolute best part of my day. It reminds you why you do this. You see how far those kids come and it makes you feel very joyful.”