A Letter To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

A Letter To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
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To the greatest teacher, I’ve ever had,

It seems almost impossible to me that it was a little over four years ago that I stepped foot into your classroom for the first time -- an apprehensive freshman, terrified of what was to come in high school.

I was lucky enough to have you as my homeroom teacher all four of those high school years. Walking into your classroom on my first day helped put some of my worries at ease. There wasn’t a bare space on the walls. I looked around and saw magazine clippings of animals, cicada shells, bookshelves lining the whole room, and that wasn’t even the half of it. Your classroom didn’t feel like a traditional classroom -- it felt comfortable, it felt welcoming. And before me stood the woman who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become someone I looked up to for years to come.

Before high school, I didn’t enjoy taking English classes. I hated writing -- it frustrated me to no end. That was until I had your class, first hour, Early World Humanities. It amazed me how someone could make something as boring as studying for a vocab quiz so fun. Before I knew it, I began looking forward to coming to school, something I had never experienced before. And around this time, my love for writing began to grow. The next two years I continued to have you as my homeroom teacher but, unfortunately, didn’t have any of your classes.

Fast forward to senior year. I was ecstatic knowing I got to have you as a teacher again for AP Lit. I remember not wanting to participate in senior skip days because it meant missing your class. Around this time was really when my writing prospered -- this is when I realized how much I loved to write. I’m extremely thankful that you always encouraged us to submit our writing to contests, and your genuine enthusiasm when we would tell you we were published or placed in a contest meant so much to not just me, but everyone who had the privilege of having you as a teacher.

I guess after this trip down memory lane what I really want to say is, thank you. Thank you for everything you did for us throughout your career. Thank you for making class fun and not just teaching by the book. Thank you for your creativity, thank you for your encouragement, thank you for your positivity, thank you for being you. You were more than just a teacher to us; you were a role model, someone we all aspired to be.

If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be writing this article. The last time I saw you I came to your classroom after graduation to come get a book that one of my poems had placed in (again, thank you for encouraging me to submit it). I remember telling you my plans for college and trying my hardest not to cry knowing I had to say goodbye to the woman who welcomed me my first day of high school with a smile on her face and made me feel welcome. Even though my major has nothing to do with writing, you told me to keep at it. And if it wasn’t for your encouragement, I wouldn’t have applied to write for Odyssey -- you wouldn’t be reading this article right now. I would have never continued to pursue my love for writing if it wasn’t for you, and for that I can’t thank you enough.

I don’t miss a lot about high school, but I will forever miss having you as a teacher. I’ll miss the scary stories the class would tell on Halloween. I’ll miss the wall of questions that would consume the hallway to the lunchroom every spring. I’ll miss all the hilarious YouTube videos you used to show us in homeroom to pass the time (especially the goats and sheep song). I’ll miss reptile day. Most of all, I’ll miss you.

Thank you for being more than a teacher to all of us throughout high school, you changed the lives of more students than you know.

Sincerely,

A Student Whose Life You Changed

Cover Image Credit: twitter.com/AlleganHS

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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11 Encounters You Only Experience When You're 10 Years Older Than Your Siblings

No I'm not their mother, but I sure do I act like it.

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I'm a 19 year old college student who has 3 younger siblings, all 3 being at least 10 years or more in difference to me. I have an (almost) 10 year old full sister named Gabby, a (newly) 4 year old half brother named Dylan, and lastly a 1.5 year old half sister named Marvell (yes, like the comics but with an extra "l").

My parents were married rather young, around my current age, but my dad remarried, and for the longest time I thought I'd be an only child. All this seems normal & reasonable with my situation in life; but God would only know what kind of things I, and many other like this, have to deal with and have learned. It's not as more offensive, as there's plenty worse in life than being accused of being too young.

With collective community talk and experience, here are 11 encounters siblings like me may have experienced in their lifetime with those little ones.

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