© 2024 South Carolina Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
South Carolina Public Radio's offices will be closed Monday, May 27, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Our local news and programming will return Tuesday, May 28.

How a teacher's feedback changed things for a stuttering student

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Time now for "My Unsung Hero," our series from the team at Hidden Brain. "My Unsung Hero" tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. And today's story comes from Susan Greenstein Prescott. Her unsung hero is her 12th grade English teacher, Fred DeMayo. One day, he assigned everyone a poem to recite in front of the class.

SUSAN GREENSTEIN PRESCOTT: And I was terrified. I had a mild stutter, and I thought, there is no way I'm getting up there in front of my peers and speaking. So I went home, and I told my mother how I felt. And she wrote me a note asking me to be excused from doing the assignment in front of the whole class. So the day of the public speaking assignment, I stayed after school. So I did - instead of giving it in front of my peers, I gave it to him one-on-one after the school day. And we sat down, and I recited my poem. And I don't remember if I stuttered. But he looked at me when I was finished, and he said, what was wrong with that? And I just sat there, and he said, I liked listening to your voice. And I had never heard that before. I think in his mind it was so minor, and he wanted me to understand I have nothing to be afraid of.

And I didn't realize how empowering that would be for me, and I never thanked him. You know, I graduated, and I just moved forward like a 18-year-old person will do. When I graduated from college, the second job I had was being a corporate trainer. So I stand up in front of people, and I speak. And I do it all the time, and if I do stutter once in a while, big whoop. And I'd like Mr. DeMayo to know that he truly is an unsung hero because he played a big role in my very successful career in my life, and that was life-changing. I don't know where I would have gone if I felt like I had to keep my voice quiet because I was afraid of embarrassing myself. I'd like to give him my thanks for that kindness.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISTORTION SONG, "IN THE AIR")

CHANG: Susan Greenstein Prescott. Since recording this story, she has found a way to reach Fred DeMayo, and she plans to write him a letter saying thank you. You can find more stories like this on the "My Unsung Hero" podcast. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to us at myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.