My most powerful personal experience in a learning community did not take place inside of classroom walls. In fact, I was in bed, missing my sixth-grade Christmas party due to the dreaded chicken pox. What timing! I had been looking forward to the event for weeks. Everyone was bringing in treats, and our teacher had a number of games and prizes planned. Meanwhile, I was miserable at home, trying not to scratch myself silly.
About an hour after school had ended for the day, a knock sounded on our door. This might be a good time to mention that I lived a half-hour from town, at the top of Mount Kilkenny. Our driveway (AKA York Pond Road) was about five miles uphill. There were only three houses at the top of the mountain, all lived in by employees of the Berlin Fish Hatchery. Knocking at the door was a foreign occurrence.
My mother opened the door to find my teacher, Mr. Halvorson, complete with bow tie and sweater vest, standing in the frigid mountain air. In his hands he held a bakery box. He had personally stopped at a bakery and bought me an assortment of goods. On top of that, he brought what must have been half the contents of the Christmas pinata, not to mention a number of word games to keep me busy.
This might sound more like a case of sugar-shock than personal learning, but it wasn’t. l’ll admit, I don’t remember much of what Mr. Halvorson taught me about Egyptian pyramids. What I took away from my year with him was an understanding of how to be human. With his actions, he taught me the meaning of caring and inclusion. I did not really fit in with my peers, but he always found a way to make me feel like I had a place in our community.

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