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My Teacher Saved Me From Solitude

My home life was in shambles. The truth was it always had been. I had been kicked and stepped on, literally beaten down to the ground for years. I hid my abuse behind the facade of a stoic personality, but inside I was dying to be loved. I never told anyone because I thought that no one would ever understand. That was, until I met Ms. Lombardo, my 5th grade teacher, who reached out to me and helped me break the silence of my suffering.

Ms. Lombardo looked more like a high school student than a teacher. She was young and wore Linkin Park and Evanescence t-shirts that reflected her love of rock music. Although she didn’t look like a typical teacher, she demanded respect and because the students loved her they gave it to her gladly.

A Human Connection

Ms. Lombardo took the time to get to know me. She would talk to me about the books I was reading to connect with me. I gradually began to feel safe around her. I still don’t know how she was able to see the loneliness that so many before her had failed to notice, but I do know that she was determined to make it right. She was committed to being that one person in my life who I could rely on and confide in.

I talked to other kids from time to time, but I didn’t tell them much. I spent most of my time with Ms. Lombardo that year. Before school, during lunchtime, and after school, I would talk to her. She was always willing to listen and offer sympathy. I would tell her about some of the things that were going on at home—but I was vague and didn’t tell her everything. I hated my home, but I realized that I couldn’t reveal that there was abuse going on, or I would be taken from my mother’s custody and I didn’t know where I would end up.

Although talking to her didn’t change the course of events unfolding at home, it did help to know that I wasn’t completely alone in this world. In many ways, speaking to Ms. Lombardo for those few hours each day rescued me; it saved me from a life of solitude. She was the only human connection I had. For the first time in my life I had an actual person to relate to, rather than just a book or a TV show.

As the school year came to a close I was excited and scared at the same time. I wanted to move on to middle school, in hopes that life would have something better in store for me. But I was also haunted by the possibility of being alone again.

Crushed Hopes

image by Daniela Castillo

My elementary school graduation was the first school event that my mother ever attended and I wanted desperately to make her proud. I thought that I might receive an academic award during the ceremony, which I hoped would fix everything. Maybe if my mother could see that I was succeeding in school and getting awards, she would see my potential. Maybe then she would stop thinking that I was a mistake who wouldn’t amount to anything.

But as the last name got called to come to the stage and it wasn’t mine, I was crushed. I felt like no force on earth could ever change my mother’s view of me.

When it was over, my mother found me in the crowd and I walked quietly beside her in shame. I guess the disappointed look on my face and my silence upset her. Before I knew it, I was being hit and pinched for “acting stupid.” She grabbed as much of my skin as she could to pinch me, but when people started turning to look, she pushed me as hard as she could away from her. I walked behind her with my head down the rest of the way home. When we were finally inside the house I went to bed and cried myself to sleep.

I’ll Never Forget

I was awakened later that day by the phone ringing. When I picked up the receiver, it was Ms. Lombardo. She had called to tell me that she was sorry I didn’t get an award and that she was still proud of me.

I started to cry. She understood me and my feelings, something no one else had cared to do. The world seemed a little better now. For the first time in my life I knew what being loved felt like, even if it was just for a brief moment.

Having someone believe in me gave me the courage to hold my head up high; it inspired me to rise from the conditions I was born into and to strive for something better.

Most teachers come into a student’s life for a year and then they’re gone; we often forget their faces and names. But I will never forget Ms. Lombardo. In a world and a family that often tell me that I can’t and I won’t, Christina Lombardo is the name and the face that come to mind when I say that I can and I will.

To talk to a crisis counselor about child abuse, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or go to

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