Last week, I had the great honor of visiting Scarlet Oaks Career Campus, a high school in the Cincinnati area for juniors and seniors who study both traditional academic subjects and specific career skills, such as construction, culinary, nursing aide, emergency medicine, veterinary technology, engineering technology and more.

Each year, the Department of English teachers select a novel for a senior-wide read. This year, THE WIDOWS was selected as the read.

I was stunned when Ms. Libbee, the teacher who organized the read, emailed me to see if I’d be interested in not only having THE WIDOWS selected, but also to spend the day visiting with the seniors, speaking with them during seven different periods, and spending lunch with a small group selected from students who applied to share the break with me.

Of course I said yes, though I was little nervous. When I met Ms. Libbee for coffee, I immediately liked her, and some of that nervousness fell to the wayside. On the day of my visit, I was still nervous—Cincinnati traffic being what it is, I worried that I would be late. Fortunately, I wasn’t, and as I watched the students during the first period come into the presentation area, my nervousness completely dissolved and was replaced by a far better emotion—gratitude for these young people, for them having read my book, for the honor of THE WIDOWS being selected.

A few days after the event, I sent an email thank-you to Ms. Libbee, and to summarize the day, I’ll share part of it here.

“Where do I begin to describe my feelings about yesterday’s visit at Scarlet Oaks? Or my feelings this morning upon reading, over my breakfast coffee, the wonderful essays students wrote for the opportunity to have lunch with me? I will be thinking about this experience for a long time!

It was truly an honor and a privilege for THE WIDOWS to be the senior read for Scarlet Oaks. I will admit that sometimes I get a bit despondent about the state of the world, but meeting so many of your students–and of course you and your dedicated English faculty–helped me re-calibrate my worldview with more hope. Of course I loved the thoughtful, insightful questions your students had, and how respectful and kind they were during the signings. But I also so loved the obvious pride and passion they showed for the fields they’re going into. It took a bit of channeling Marvena/Lily toughness not to get dewy-eyed as the lunch group students gave me a tour of their labs.”

I’m sharing here a few photos from the event. I hope you see in these students’ faces, as I did, intelligence, insight, and hope for the future.

p.s. I’ve always admired teachers. When I give book talks, I sometimes reference growing up in a chaotic childhood, and how teachers in general and several teachers in particular helped save my life. Well, after a day visiting this school—as easy as my day was, given how super organized the teachers were and how respectful the students were—I was reminded of my deep admiration. Next time you see a teacher, please thank him or her.