During Jowanna Peterson's first teaching assignment at Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, two girls, each named Donna, were in her United States History class. One was a humorous teen, with an excellent personality and an outstanding student citizen. The second Donna spent most of her in-class time chatting with other students, passing written notes primarily to other female students and making general nuisance of herself. Ms. Peterson was convinced that she would be a problem during the course of the academic year. So Ms. Peterson mentally prepared herself for a year of having to deal with her disruption of her history class.
Then, towards the end of October, the parents and teachers held their first meeting. A mother came up to Ms. Peterson and asked: “How is my daughter, Donna, getting along in your American history class?”
For whatever reason, Ms. Peterson assumed, she was talking to the well-behaved Donna’s mother. She responded, “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy her. I’m so glad she’s in my American history class!”
“That’s absolutely wonderful,” her jubilant mother said.
The following morning, Donna, Ms. Peterson's problem teen, came up to her desk to talk to her.
“Ms. Peterson, my mom told me what you said last night. No teacher I’ve ever had wanted me in their class. They all think I'm dumb, stupid and lazy. But you don't. Thanks, Ms. Peterson, thanks!”
That day Donna’s work was well-done, neat and accurate in its content. Ms. Peterson had many opportunities to offer her unconditional praise, help when she wanted it and a compassionate ear as well. Each time Donna received help she glowed with confidence and pride. Before long, Ms. Peterson problem teen student became one of the best students in her United States history class.
Years after that United States history class, Jowanna Peterson often wondered if God didn’t arrange that case of mistaken identity to teach an inexperienced teacher a valuable lesson: the investment of praise, trust and unconditional love and it can do when directed to a student or anyone else for that matter as Jesus Christ has commanded us to do. The results are that we enrich the lives of others, better their lives and our own as well.