It is so difficult to put in to the right words how impactful Débora Palafox-Perry has been in my life and the lives of others. There are so many reason and examples and never enough words to express my gratitude and love for her. I have known her for 17 years now, since I was in first grade, and she never ceases to teach me something knew, believe in me, or be there for me with anything.
I had grown up with unsupportive parents who never asked about school or cared to make sure I was doing well academically or physically. Débora was quite the opposite.
It is a rare thing to find such a kind, generous, beautiful and amazing person like her. I had an immediate bond to her, that I have never since had with any other teacher of mine. She would always go out if her way to tutor me in Algebra and Spanish even though she was only my seventh grade summer school teacher.
I remember in 8th grade she had spent quite a lot of time helping me understand Algebra- math had never been a strong subject for me. Our final benchmark was coming up and she was doing everything she could to make sure I was going to be successful. Unfortunately, I did not pass the benchmark. I was not a good test taker even though I had a B in the class. I immediately started crying and my math teacher sent me to go see Débora.
As I walked through the doors to her room I began crying even more. She asked me what was wrong and I explained with apologies that I did not pass my benchmark and that I was so sorry. I explained to her that I had felt awful because she spent so much of her time helping me and I thought she had wasted her time on me. She quickly said, “Keila, you don’t have to apologize. The tutoring will have never been a waste of time. As long as you tried your best, that’s all I care about and that’s all that matters.... did you try your best?” Of course I did. But because I had no support at home, her saying that not only made me feel better, but it’s still something I take with me today. Just try your best.
Once I was in high school, I would leave immediately after school and either walk or take a bus back to where she was working at the time to visit and help her out with whatever she needed. I loved helping her. She instilled a huge sense of responsibility, organization and reliability in me that I take pride in today. It may seem silly, but by her teaching me how to use a laminating machine, or a paper cutter, or even using a dictionary instead of my phone to look up words I didn’t know the meaning of have been some of my favorite things. I owe my depth of vocabulary to her. Not only that, but she has the most BEAUTIFUL handwriting I have ever seen to this day, and when I would get papers back with corrections or notes, I would trace over her writing and now my penmanship and even calligraphy is because of her!
Towards the end of my high school years she made sure I was on track to graduate and go to college. She insisted on writing me my college letter of recommendation, which to this day makes me extremely emotional when I read it. I had gotten heavily involved in Colorguard in high school and wanted to go to a college that had a program I could be in. So instead of pushing me to be a teacher like I had been saying I wanted to be for many years, she supported my decision and wrote about how Colorguard had impacted me and how it would help me through college.
We all know that when kids grow up they venture on to things, become busy and drift away. That’s what happened to me. I started working right out of high school, I was going to community college, and I was dealing with a lot at home. We never stopped keeping in contact through the phone, but I had less and less time to go visit her until I hadn’t seen her for 5 years.
Fast forward to Halloween if this year. She had messaged me asking if I would be willing to come in and teach 480 students Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance to celebrate Halloween and the arts. I was hesitant at first because I was nervous about not doing a good job, but she immediately told me “I have nothing but faith in you!”
When I got to the school I was waiting inside of the classroom I was going to teach in and all I can hear from down the hall is, “Keila Monster!”- a nickname she had given to me a very long time ago. We hugged after about 6 years, and everything felt as if we picked up exactly where we left off... except I am an adult now.
I am struggling to find the right words to express how much I love and appreciate this woman. She had been the mother I didn’t have, the teacher that became a lifelong friend, and the inspiration I need to this day to keep going. I don’t believe it is often that someone finds a person and has such a connection after 17 years. She has done more for me than anyone else, has inspired me beyond anything or anyone, has pushed me to be the person I am today and CONTINUALLY does everything she can to make sure I am successful. Because of her, in the spring semester I will be going back to school to become a Paramedic. She deserves more than just my recognition. She deserves the world.
It’s easy to say that someone has made an impact on you and give examples of big things, but because she has shown so much generosity and compassion in every aspect, it’s quite easy for me to explain how she has impacted me on every minutelevel. From making sure I’m okay, down to the details of what my writing looks like. If it were up to me, she would get every award possible, because quite honestly, I would not be alive today if it were not for her.