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Linda Mah
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Dear Me: Looking Back at Second Grade

Mary Baker's Students Get Letters Written in Second Grade

Once a year, Mrs. Mary Baker asked her first and second-grade students to sit down and write a letter. The first line was, “Dear Me.”

The lines that followed were a chronicle of elementary school memories: favorite television shows, best friends, pets, sports and dreams. There were dreams of going to prom, growing up and having muscles, becoming astronauts, teachers and sports stars.

Baker, who some students knew as Mrs. Trotter, started the tradition having students write letters to themselves in 1998 — with the promise that she’d mail them to the students when they graduated from high school. This year, she sent her last batch of remaining letters to the Class of 2017, which was her last class at Winchell Elementary School before she retired in 2007. The letters were sent with notes that said, “I told you I would never forget you.”

“I kept all of the letters in the closet,” organized by date, Baker said. “I told my daughter, ‘If anything happens to me, these letters have to go out to these families.’”

Baker said she loved teaching writing, even to first and second graders. Eventually, she created a project that included letters students wrote to themselves, a little biography written by their classmates, and a collage that students made at the beginning of each year. She collected those items, catalogued them and mailed them to the students when they graduated from high school.

For the students, the long-forgotten letters were a window into the past.

Kyerra Tipton, who graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School, said she didn’t know what the package was when it arrived at her house.

“I was excited when I read it and saw how I used to be,” she said. “I miss those days.” This fall she plans to attend Ferris State University to study education.

Addison Kruger laughed as he read his letter out loud for the first time. In the letter he admonishes his older self to get off the couch and to stop playing video games all the time. He also hopes that his future self will have big muscles.

“I actually remember writing about the muscles,” laughed Krueger, who will be attending Michigan Technological University to study computer engineering in the fall.

Before she sent each batch of letters out, Baker said she read through them and marveled at the personalities that came through in the writing.

“Every child was different,” Baker said. “Every child has something they wanted to share with you. I remember the potential in each child was so exciting.”

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