M y hand was on the door of the hall, ready to push it open, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Mrs. Tisken. She smiled at me and pointed at the door, where the student showcase was already in full swing.

“You took great students and turned them into professionals. The level of craftsmanship in this room from your students goes beyond my expectations.”

I smiled back.

“And Vanessa’s—” Mrs. Tisken shook her head in disbelief. “Leagues ahead. Amazing. People doubt her because of her Asperger’s, but she’s so talented.”

What?!

“Vanessa has Asperger’s?” I tried to keep my voice casual.

Mrs. Tisken looked at me curiously. “I told all the teachers at orientation, Vanessa wanted the staff to know so they’d understand her better. She’s very open about it.”

“I wasn’t at orientation, I started late,” I said. Mrs. Tisken looked like a clichéd cartoon, with her mouth and eyes round. I’d have laughed, but my brain was too busy clicking pieces into place. Vanessa had Asperger’s, that made so much sense. I felt bad at how I’d judged her.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “That won’t happen again.”

“Again?” I cocked my head to the side.

Mrs. Tisken gave me another smile. “Abby, we’d love to have you back next semester.”

She wants me back, she likes me, for real. And oh — that’s why she wanted to meet with me.

“Let me know by the end of the week, please.”

She patted me on the shoulder and entered the showcase hall. I followed. It was so noisy and airless and bright I wanted to turn tail that moment, but figured I should make a quick round of my students.

“Mrs. Schorr.” A deep voice called to me. I turned, it was Carlos Diaz, probably number two talent after Vanessa, waving me toward his display.

“What do you think?” he asked. I’d seen it, of course, and guided him through the whole process. But on display it was impressive. He had taken inspiration from his Latino heritage and created modernized Atzec jewelry — really just three bangles of different widths. He had it displayed on Aztec step pyramids. I picked up one bangle. The Aztec used wood, feathers, gold, and other diverse material in their jewelry. I’d shown Carlos how to create an effect of feathers and wood in the gold, and he’d done a good job.

“It’s incredible,” I told him sincerely. The six-foot-four man puffed up another five inches in pride. Amazing what a compliment could do; I wished I had such superpowers in other areas of my life. I walked through the displays, stopping at each of my students for a few minutes to comment and compliment. I’m a good teacher apparently. Never would have thought.

Somebody started playing mellow jazz over the sound system, I think it was supposed to make the place seem classy, but it just irritated me. Incoming headache. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 575)