Dear Teacher… A letter to my Daughter’s Teacher from a Fellow Inmate

Dear Teacher... A letter to my Daughter's Teacher from a Fellow Inmate
While incarcerated, I wrote a letter to my daughter’s friends’ parents. And then I decided to write a letter to my daughter’s teacher. For whatever reason, the “Dear Teacher” blog post hadn’t gotten published yet by the time of my early release.
 
But now being on the other side, Morgan encouraged me to revisit the blog post, update it with a new perspective now being on the other side, and share. So here it goes to her past teachers and future ones this year…
 
Dear Melrose’s Teacher(s),
 
Hello, my name is Noah Bergland, and I am Melrose Marie Bye’s father. I had been incarcerated for the past 7 years, and that’s why I’ve been absent throughout her schooling and activities. I was recently released from prison in May and I wanted to introduce myself. 
 
I understand the importance of my daughter’s education and I intend to be heavily involved in her academics. So far, since my release, and due to COVID, working with her from home has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had.
 
When I was helping her and interacting with her 3rd-grade teacher via the web, I couldn’t help but think of those teachers that made a positive impact on my education. Those memories inspire me to try to bring that same value to my daughter’s life.

Dear Teacher... A letter to my Daughter's Teacher from a Fellow Inmate

However, the first couple of months since my release has proved that my absence has had a worse impact on Melrose’s life than I anticipated. I don’t know how I’m going to fit into her world, and this thought scares me. I realize it’s going take time and I have some trust to gain back.

The path I have taken in life has given me plenty of time to reflect. But no amount of time could have prepared me for this transition.

Just before I was released from prison, I had a phone call with my daughter. She told me that she doesn’t like her 3rd grade timed math tests. I immediately got a lump in my throat as I recalled my panic from multiplication tables, and I realize that’s where it all started for me.

Now I hear that same fear in my daughter’s voice. I don’t know what to say to her. I wonder how I can help her not make the same choice I made.

My fear caused me to run from the exercise, instead of working on getting better. Today, I’m still terrible at math.

Because I never overcame my fear of timed tests, I never stood a chance when it was time to take the ACT. I got a 17 on it and for a while, I thought my academic career was over because a teacher of mine said that our whole future depends on this test.

I was ashamed of my score for a very long time, and a part of me still is. I took the test when I was 17 years old, and now at 34, I have finally started to tell people what I actually got. 

I let it define who I was as intellectually; from that point on, I believed I wasn’t smart enough to do most things. Now, I’m trying to figure out what I can do, to help my daughter, not follow in my footsteps.

Dear Teacher... A letter to my Daughter's Teacher from a Fellow Inmate

When it was time to apply for college, I had my heart set on the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) but an educator told me, based on my ACT score, not to apply. This immediately reinforced my initial thought that I’m not smart enough. Thank God I didn’t listen because I got accepted.

I wasn’t prepared for college, I was named ”Life of the Party,” my senior year of high school, and I embraced it. Therefore, college, instead of learning became a vessel for me to party and have fun.

If you still have this category in school, along with “Most likely to go to jail,” in your senior yearbooks, do your best to get them removed because they both can lead to the same place.

My parents provided me with a free college education, but I simply took advantage of it. For most kids, college is a time to mature and get ready for the real world. When I graduated from college, I wasn’t ready, and I went to prison.

A couple of years ago, while I was incarcerated, I started sharing my story on my sister’s blogs. This writing has allowed me to reconnect with a couple of my past teachers, who have supported me along the way with their comments and emails. The same teachers supporting me today are the same ones that left an impression on me two decades ago.

Also, a handful of teachers from the Minneapolis area have started using my letters in their curriculum and my sister has even gone to speak at a couple of their schools. One of these teachers is the reason I’m writing this letter, she asked what I would like to say to my daughter’s teacher.

I started it when I was in prison and now I’m finishing it because my sister encouraged me to and I need help. I am hoping when the school year starts this fall you can assist me in integrating back into her life.

As you continue to teach, please teach them that they are loved, even if that is not the message they are getting at home. Teach them that there is a place to turn if they need help.

Teach them what the consequences are if they choose to hang out with the wrong crowd, shoplift, experiment with drugs, or have sex too soon. But let them learn that from someone who has lived it.

Bring in recovering addicts, ex-cons, and women and men who had children at a young age and never rebounded from it. Let them share their stories and touch their hearts because the message will be lost if they hear it from anyone else.

I intend to bring value to my daughter’s life, and I hope that my actions don’t present further damage than I’ve already caused. The problem is, I never intended to go to prison, so what you want and what you do can end up very differently.

Dear Teacher... A letter to my Daughter's Teacher from a Fellow Inmate

These first two months out of prison have not been easy. I’m trying to get to know my daughter, and I’ve met with some resistance. I’m afraid that she already resents me.

I understand emotions are confusing for a 9-year-old. My mom has helped me overcome some early hurdles, by having conversations with her about me, coming home, and how it’s going to be a learning experience for all of us. 

Due to my behavior, my daughter has attended 3 different schools in the last 5 years. This has taught my daughter resilience and she is very strong for it, but I also think there is another reason she ended up as strong-minded as she is.
 
Dear Teacher... A letter to my Daughter's Teacher from a Fellow Inmate
 
That being the support she has had at home with my mom, who has an educational background, but also her teachers at school. I always enjoy hearing how much Melrose enjoys her time at school and it could be because it’s a place where she feels like every other kid. The teachers and the school system have provided this environment for her and I will forever be grateful for it.
 
Melrose loves playing with her friends, music class is her favorite, and her comprehension at the age of 9 is impressive. It’s the environment that allows my daughter to succeed, even though she has a less than ideal situation at home.
 
Now you throw COVID into the mix, there is uncertainty whether schools will even go back to the classroom setting, and then you have the risk of infecting teachers. It’s a difficult situation for everyone and I can’t imagine being in your shoes. Whether you choose to go back to work or not, know that I support you 100%.
 
The educational system is so important and I wish I would have realized this years ago. Just know the work you put in is making an impact on so many kids’ lives who are going through difficult times. I appreciate everything you’ve done for my daughter and me.
 
So when asked what I would like to say to Melrose’s teacher(s), I would like to say… Thank you, for everything!

Dear Teacher... A letter to my Daughter's Teacher from a Fellow Inmate 1

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