To: Mrs. Gomez, Cactus Flats Elementary Dear Mrs. Gomez:

Now that the school year is over I just wanted to say thanks for giving my third grader a first-rate education.

Thanks for holding high standards. What did you think when TUSD decided to let students who failed the AIMS test participate in graduation? Superintendent John Pedicone said this was a one-time exception. Apparently the budget is so bad the district couldn't afford standards this year.

Thanks for making learning fun. You're his favorite comedian. Five shows daily, plus recess! All those knee-high hecklers and you're your own bouncer. I bet when you get home only a mallet to the forehead helps you unwind.

Thanks for shaping his character with a firm hand. And you did it without using a Taser! By the way, let me say thanks for not ending up on the nightly news. Whatever private vices keep you balanced are yours to keep - with my blessings.

My boy says you're "old school." That's a good thing I guess, unless you're in TUSD, where old schools get closed. Thanks for sticking with it all these years, Mrs. Gomez. The rumors are you taught Geronimo and you gave Pancho Villa a referral. Is it true that's the last time you sent anybody to the office?

Thanks for trusting your instincts in spite of all the education experts who want to micromanage your profession. That latest House-of-the-Mind-Voodoo-Wheel-of-Education theory you mentioned at our last parent/teacher meeting was a hoot, all right. Remember how we laughed? By the time you master that theory there'll be another one, you said. "Full employment for administrators," you said. Your secret is safe with me, Mrs. Gomez.

Thanks for giving my boy a solid basic education. Thanks for encouraging my kid to be a good reader and a better writer. His book report on the Slayer video-game manual was good, wasn't it?

Thanks for teaching our son how to manage his time, how to think independently and how to remove gum and boogers from his hair without denuding his scalp.

Thanks for teaching him to value learning. I was surprised when he told me you used a mug shot of me as an example of why kids should stay in school. Very funny, Mrs. Gomez.

Thanks for sending him home excited about learning. Every time I asked him "What did you do in school today?" he always had stories to tell about what he had learned. Sometimes it was something you had said that sparked his love of language. We'd just laugh and say, "Surely your teacher wouldn't use that special grown-up word!" I've seen those munchkins when they're on the rampage. It's cool with me, Mrs. Gomez.

Thanks for ignoring the negativity outside your classroom. You had enough behavior problems to deal with inside your classroom without having to think about the spit-wad-flinging "grown-ups" who are running our state.

Thanks for managing an overcrowded class with amazing skill. Enjoy your gifts from the PTO this year: a circus ringmaster's whistle and a bullhorn with "Mrs.Gomez" engraved on the side. (The cattle prod was beyond our budget.)

Thanks for preparing him for the 21st century with the tools the state has given you. He was impressed when you used flint sparks to make fire. He said looking at vintage photographs of state-of-the-art computers by candlelight was fun. Teaching him Hindi so he could one day fill out an Indian job application was a stroke of genius. Thanks for encouraging my kid to think about the world beyond Tucson. I'm afraid he'll have to.

Thanks for the steady flow of challenging homework that made his backpack weigh 275 pounds. Every morning he looked like a cross between a hobbit and a Sherpa heading off to Everest for a year.

Thanks for accepting the long hours and short pay with a positive spirit. If you were exhausted or bitter, my son never sensed it. I'll admit the time the groundskeeper had to restrain you from hopping the fence during recess freaked him out a little.

Thanks for taking him on so many great field trips. I know you're as surprised as we are that he still managed to find his way back to the classroom.

Thanks for managing the fundraisers. They were fun. I'm the parent who bought 24 boxes of candy bars from our own little Willy Loman and, as a result, I am now a type 2 diabetic. I wrapped your PTO gift using all 300 rolls of the wrapping paper I bought.

Thanks for preparing my boy for next year - he'll be knocking their socks off in the fourth grade. And hopefully, thanks to you, he won't be knocking off a Marana convenience store in the 11th grade. (Fingers crossed).

Thanks for a year of the wildest "Hey Dad, did you know?" moments. "Hey Dad, did you know I'm young and still curious about the world we live in? And did you know you stopped learning as soon as you got a mortgage and found the remote and the sofa? That's why you just grunt when I say, 'Hey Dad, did you know that fire ants can swim?'" Funny kid. I won't be up for Father of the Year because I make him wear a name tag - but, darn it, I love that kid.

And I guess you do, too.

You are a humble person, Mrs. Gomez, and I know you'll claim you were just doing your job and that he's a good kid anyway. The truth is you poured one year of your life into my child and your role in his future success is undeniable and immeasurable.

Some day in the future he'll thank you for the impact you had on him. He might have to break out of prison and steal a car to do it, but I guarantee you, Mrs. Gomez, you'll cry.

Thanks for staying in Arizona. We need good teachers like you here in the outback. The state doesn't act like it needs you, but kids like my boy do.

Thanks for being my son's teacher. Have a great summer. You earned it.

Fitz's Tucson