A Gift from Ms. Hsu

A Gift from Ms. Hsu

Last week, prior to the Spring Picnic, parents and students gathered in the library to celebrate and say thank you to retiring third grade teacher, Alicia Hsu, for her 28 years of teaching at Lawrence School and 31 years of service to the Public Schools of Brookline.   It was a fitting and moving tribute as both current and former students (some now in high school and college) spoke about their lasting memories.

Two weeks prior, Alicia’s past and present colleagues gathered to honor her as well.  That evening, I quoted from the writing of Elliot Eisner, a long-time professor of education at Stanford University, who was best known for his passionate advocacy of the arts in education – a passion shared by Alicia. In 2006 commencement address at the Stanford School of Education called “On Teaching,” Eisner talked about the satisfactions of teaching, “The satisfactions of teaching provide opportunities to reach out to students…. The images of teachers past populate our minds and memories. They sit on our shoulders ready to identify infractions of one kind or another and to offer praise for work well done. Their lives live in yours and your life lives in theirs.”

Last week’s student tributes certainly demonstrated how Alicia Hsu’s caring and creative approach teaching has lived on in the lives of her students and will continue to do so for years to come.

Being who she is, Alicia was not content to take satisfaction in the gift of learning she has given countless students over the years.  Instead, she elected to leave a gift to the school.   And, in keeping with the way she approached teaching, the gift centers around a poignant story.

A student of children’s literature, Alicia has long admired the work of Caldecott Award winning children’s book author and illustrator Ed Young.  Many parents may be familiar with his popular books Lon Po Po or Seven Blind Mice.  Alicia and I share an appreciation of his work.  When I was a principal in Lexington, we developed a unit of study around his work and invited him to come to the school and speak with our students.

Alicia decided to reach out to Ed Young personally to arrange a gift of his artwork to the school. She wrote to him, describing how a book he had illustrated called What Comes In Spring? had been a favorite to read aloud to her oldest daughter, Arielle, when she was a young child.  She also shared her connection to him as a Chinese-American and how she had grown up in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, where he now resides.

Ed Young wrote back and said, “There’s something about what you said in your letter that makes me decide that I’d send not just a piece of art from the past, but make one for this special occasion because of your dedication to Lawrence School, to your parents and no doubt to your children.”  A few days later, Alicia received an original new piece of artwork that featured the robin from the book What Comes in Spring?   Mr. Young’s note accompanying the piece read, “Know that above all else, it is the wind that moves the boat. We are but vessels at best that carry the will of heaven.  The good will of your people, parents, colleagues, students and families is what made this happen through my hand and I am honored. It is the true meaning of ‘feng man lou.’ I call the work ‘The Return of Spring.’  Everything comes back in cycles. It is truly another beginning. Congratulations.”

The Return of Spring is currently on display in my office and will find a permanent home in the Lawrence School Library next year. Alicia Hsu’s gift will stand as a lasting reminder of the countless gifts she gave to her students, families and colleagues for the past 28 years.  We say thank you and offer our best wishes on her new beginning!                                                                

Rick Rogers

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