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Inspired by retirement gift, Augusta teacher writes book for educators

“Dear Mr. Wells” was written to let teachers know they’re appreciated
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - After working in the Augusta School Department for 41 years, Tom Wells decided it was time to retire from full-time teaching. It was then a new chapter of his life began, all thanks to a parting gift from his students.

Most teachers hope to make an impact. Tom Wells knows for a fact he did.

“I‘m a kid at heart so it’s easy to connect with them,” laughed Wells.

As a retirement gift in 2014, the long-time Cony High School English teacher received a three-ring binder filled with hundreds of letters from former students.

“It took me over a year to read it because I would cry before, during, and after each and every handwritten note,” Wells said. “It was totally overwhelming and basically proved to me that I did make a difference in kids’ lives. Not only Tom Wells, but teachers make differences without even knowing it.”

“I knew the response would be overwhelming because he was widely regarded as one of the best teachers here,” said B.L. Lippert, a former student of Wells who now works at Cony as a social studies teacher. “I remember the bar he set for us, academically. English wasn’t my favorite subject, so I went in there expecting to slack my way through and get a B. He just didn’t allow you to be average.”

Almost immediately, Wells knew he wanted to turn the binder into a book.

“I want teachers to know they make a difference,” Wells said. “I want them to not get distracted. Today, in particular, with COVID and the protocol, the distractions are omnipresent.”

Dear Mr. Wells: His students speak gives advice on how to be an effective teacher, and shows through the letters that his process works.

“Connect, and life is good,” said Wells. “Just creating an atmosphere of respect. That’s what I’m trying to do right here as a sub. I have it written on the board. That’s the only rule in the classroom.”

These days, Mr. Wells gives motivational speeches. He’s also back at Cony working as a long-term substitute teacher.

It gives him a chance to do what he does best: teach English and connect with students.

Not necessarily in that order.

“It’s definitely worth the money. You’re paid a lot here,” Wells said, pointing to his chest. “I never went home unhappily.”

Proceeds from the book go to a scholarship in the name of a former colleague who died of leukemia.

Wells is thinking about writing a second edition to include more narratives from teachers.

For more information, or to connect with Mr. Wells, you can visit his website tomwellsteacher.com.

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