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Inspiring Teacher Reconnects with Former Student 15 Years Later

note from Beth Graceffa

A bilingual teacher at Washington Elementary School is still making his former fourth grade teacher proud. And she is still saying it with chocolate.

A 205 VIBE blog post told the story of Erik Manriquez, a first grade bilingual teacher at Washington who thanked the teacher who believed in him. The two had not been in touch since the fourth grade at Nashold. But after Beth Graceffa read the post, she decided to send a note to Manriquez. She has been retired from Rockford Public Schools for seven years.

“I am still very proud of you,” she said in the note, adding she was certain he could achieve anything he set his mind to. The note came through the district’s Board mail system, with help from her daughter, Kate Berg, who is a special education teacher at Rolling Green Elementary School.

Graceffa’s note came with an extra-large chocolate bar, just like the one Manriquez got from her in fourth grade after scoring 100 percent on a math test. The encouragement from his teacher was even more important, as it was his first year out of the bilingual program.

Graceffa remembers the struggle of students like Manriquez as they adjusted to a classroom where English was spoken. “My Spanish was functional,” she said, “but I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, fluent.” She was so happy her encouragement led to a career in education for Manriquez, especially given his gender.

“For many of these students, seeing a young man is just an extra boost,” she said. “I had good connections with other kids, but Erik was a really good kid.”

Headshot of Mary Kaull

Mary Kaull

Mary Kaull has worked in communications for the Rockford Public Schools since 2012. She has lived in near northwest Rockford for 30 years and has two adult children. In her spare time, she exercises, reads, cooks and contemplates her growing pile of craft materials. She is fostering her son's hunting dog, Seamus.

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