Lessons in Life, Literature, and Love: For Ashley Aquino

Who knew that someone I initially found intimidating would eventually become my mentor?

Back in 9th grade, I was afraid of my Literature teacher, Ashley Aquino. She wasn’t a “terror” teacher, but I was intimidated by her because she didn’t strike me as someone approachable. I didn’t think we would get along because of that, but all that changed when we had our first serious conversation.

Ms. Aquino is an alumna of the school I study in, as well as a former member of the same Intrams team I am part of. Because of those facts, I figured she would be the best person to talk to about my childhood dream: to be the Captain of my team. To cut the long story short, that dream of mine was crushed. Sensing that I was distraught, she took time to talk to me about it. “The best thing you can ever be known for is for trying,” she said. “You tried until the very end, and didn’t get it. But it’s okay. It will be.”

In the next academic year, I was quite surprised to find out that Ms. Aquino followed our batch to the 10th grade, once more as our Literature teacher. Imagine my shock when I discovered she was also my class adviser, as well as my mentor (the school’s equivalent of a personal counselor!)

I opened up to her about my life, from the little things like how my day went to the more serious topics such as the future. She was (and has always been) a patient listener, encouraging me to ‘make kwento’ over coffee. In the process, I told her I was afraid to go after what I want because failure crippled me. And I quote her reply: “People need to know that there is no shame in failing to achieve a very noble ambition. The shame lies in never having the guts to dream big and strive for it.”

We may have not known each other for the longest time, but I am truly grateful for all that she has done for me. She saw my talent for words and told me it was a gift I needed to share with others. She encourages me to keep being passionate about literature, history, & ultimate frisbee. She reminds me to be kind – not only to others but to myself as well. But most importantly, she has shown me what it means to love selflessly, to serve others through her lessons both in and out of the classroom.

Teachers are often likened to superheroes; when their students need them, they come just in time to save the day. In my life, Ms. Aquino has been doing that since the day we first had a conversation with each other. She always knows what to say to make me feel better, and I thank her for everything she’s taught me.

Through her Lit class, I learned about epic heroes and tragic heroes.
But through her example, I learned what it means to be an everyday hero.

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