Former Miller Place teacher mails each student a memory
Kathy MacLeod taught in the Miller Place School District for 36 years.
Mostly a fourth-grade teacher, she created years ago a project that would eventually become a tradition for her students and their families.
“The students had to write a letter to themselves that I would save and mail to them when they were ready to graduate from high school,” she said. “And they were just adorable.”
MacLeod would have the students write to their future selves about their families, hobbies, what they learned in school and what they thought they’d be doing as a senior.
“Sometimes, they were very funny, like, I’ll be driving a Lamborghini or, you know, I’ll be playing Major League Baseball,” she said. “And some would be more realistic, saying that I’ll be driving a car or working at McDonald’s.”
The first batch of letters had to wait eight years to eventually be mailed out, with a reminder of the graduating year when they were to be dispatched.
And the majority of the time, MacLeod said, the students forgot the assignment from their elementary school days.
The Miller Place High School graduating class of 2021 was different, though, as this was MacLeod’s last batch of letters.
In 2013, she decided to retire, but retirement didn’t mean stopping from sending out the last eight batches of letters her students wrote. Over the last eight years, she sent the envelopes back to them with copies of what the children wrote to themselves.
Sadly, this was her last group to graduate.
“The parents love it,” she said. “They’re very emotional when their kids are getting ready to graduate, and it’s like a voice from the past.”
MacLeod is so devoted, she always finds a way to get the letter into the right hands — one former student she had to track down in Arizona, and the girl was thrilled.
“Teaching there was the best job I could have had in the best school,” MacLeod said. “It really was a wonderful place to work.”
Along with the letter and the self-portraits she encouraged them to draw, MacLeod attaches a photo from the students’ fourth-grade class picture. The kids look different now.
“I remember them like it was yesterday,” she said. “It’s so funny seeing them grown up.”
Of the class that has just graduated, the students recently received their letters that their previous teacher mailed out.
Andrew Bova, 17, said the blast from the past was very different than what he previously remembered.
“I wrote to myself that I’d be a professional Islander player,” he said. “Now I’m going to Emerson College for musical theater.”
Bova said it was a blast from the past and reading what he thought of his life when he was 8 years old was nostalgic.
He said can’t thank her enough for this fun memory.
“She’s by far my favorite teacher,” he said. “I really appreciate her.”
Ariel Martin, another student, said that her 8-year-old self thought she would have pink streaks in her hair and would be going to Harvard after high school.
She decided instead to Chapman University in California for film production.
“I just want to give her a big ‘thank-you’ for holding onto these and sending them out to all of us,” she said. “To this day, she’s my favorite teacher.”
MacLeod said it’s bittersweet that she won’t have to head to the post office with a large envelope in 2022.
“I just wanted to remind them how proud I am of them, how creative and fun the class was,” she said. “But this class in particular, they were such a creative, loving bunch. It wasn’t an easy last year and a half, and I just think they came through with flying colors.”