My friend, who is an elementary school teacher, had the most amazing experience the other day. She got to present a high school diploma to one of her former second graders!

As a little girl, the student wanted to be just like her teacher. Now a decade later, she’s on the path to making that happen.

My friend is kind and caring and creative. I have to believe something special happened in her classroom that ignited passion in that little girl and gave her a vision for her future.

Cheerleaders do that for us. They don’t just stand on the sidelines. They show up when we need them and come alongside us.

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They whisper words of encouragement or sometimes when we’re not listening or having trouble hearing, they use their megaphones to let us know we matter.

Karen Christians knows the value of a cheerleader. She is a teacher, too. Here’s what she shared about a special co-worker.

"I have worked in education for nearly 30 years. My passion for the kids I teach has remained strong. I have numerous students and co-worker teachers who comment on my upbeat attitude and joy-filled outlook on life. It’s not fake, God created me this way. I love to smile, and even more I love to help other people find their smile.

"But, sometimes I need a cheerleader. Arlis works at the same school I do. She usually works in the kitchen, but she also helps out with our custodial staff.

"Arlis looks me in the eye when we talk and she really listens after she asks the question, ‘How are you?’ Arlis has a heart that just knows when she needs to ask that question. She has a special softness and a keen sense for when people may be hurting or simply needing a hug. God created Arlis with hands that do something with what she notices.

"Arlis is my cheerleader. Some days when I get to school, I find a small plate of her incredibly delicious homemade bars tucked into my faculty mailbox. Some days (way too many days to count), I find a package of rich, wonderful coffee like Jamaican Me Crazy wrapped in tissue paper setting on my desk.

"One day this past winter/spring, I found a small bouquet of colorful flowers with a simple note attached, ‘Mrs. Christians… Have a Great Day!’

"I keep the notes and I use them as bookmarks to always remind me that I have a cheerleader," a reader says. Special to The Forum
"I keep the notes and I use them as bookmarks to always remind me that I have a cheerleader," a reader says. Special to The Forum

"I keep the notes and I use them as bookmarks to always remind me that I have a cheerleader. I don’t know exactly how she knows when the timing is just right, but, by God’s grace, she knows.

"I am so thankful for the simple, powerful kindnesses of Arlis. She looks, she asks, she listens and she responds. She is my cheerleader, and I am so thankful for her!"

This has been a really tricky time to be in education and we don’t know what adjustments will need to be made in the fall. One thing we do know, though, is we all win when we become each other’s cheerleaders.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Nicole J. Phillips' Kindness is Contagious columns

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com.

Nicole J. Phillips, a former Fargo television anchor, is a speaker, author and host of The Kindness Podcast. She lives in Aberdeen, S.D., with her three children and her husband, Saul Phillips, the head men's basketball coach at Northern State University. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.