"Alright, I've had enough!"
Maya, a small pink Acara, flinched when her teacher slammed his hands upon his desk.
Mr. Mytho was the new teacher at Maya's school. He seemed to be always losing his patience with students who couldn't answer questions right. He angered so often, he had already earned the name Mytho-the-Meanie. Students who didn't make fun of him feared him, which was due to his intimidating Halloween color which made the Lupe seem even larger and meaner.
Thankfully for Maya, who usually answered her questions right and never really had a problem with the new teacher, Mr. Mytho's anger was directed at a shadow Gelert who had answered his third question wrong.
"Since no one has read the book..." Maya cringed. She'd read the book, of course. Mr. Mytho continued, "You will all have to take a quiz tomorrow. Study hard; class dismissed."
Students were rushing to get their things and get out of the door. Maya took her time, placing her books carefully. Then, before leaving class, she turned back to Mr. Mytho.
His head was buried in his hands, but between his fingers he was staring at a bright pink paper on his desk. Did that say... Resignation at the top?
Maya could certainly understand his anger. Most students hadn't bothered to read the book, because they didn't care. He was trying so hard to get her classmates to listen, and they wouldn't. Plus, being the new guy in town didn't help. She herself had known that particular pain last year when she was the new student. He just needed someone to give him a chance.
"Have a nice day, Mr. Mytho," Maya said softly, leaving before she could hear him return the farewell.
At lunch, the shadow Gelert from earlier was doing an impression of Mr. Mytho. He slammed his paws on the lunch table, furrowing his brow. He had gathered a lot of attention, and many kids were laughing. Maya wasn't, of course. She didn't like the actions of the Gelert, or the crowd he was gathering.
After finishing a bite of her sandwich, she turned to her friend. The blue Bori had her nose in a math textbook, but the small smile on her lips told Maya that Angie found the actions of the shadow Gelert funny. After all, there was no rational reason to be stifling giggles at math.
"I don't think it's funny," Maya said to her friend, but loud enough to catch the attention of the group. "Mr. Mytho isn't so bad. It isn't his fault no one reads the book and knows the answers."
The Gelert, whose name Maya believed to be Ryan, heard her and stopped his antics. "What'd you say?" he asked, his mouth twisting into a frown.
Maya took a sip of her juice, then stood with her lunch tray. "Just because a teacher has rules and expectations doesn't make him or her a bad person," she told Ryan in that matter-of-fact voice. She took a few steps to the waste bin, but paused and added: "Mr. Mytho isn't a bad teacher; you're just a bad student."
"Teacher's Pet!" shouted the Gelert, just as Maya had finished speaking. Her eyes widened. She hadn't been called a teacher's pet since she was the new girl in town, and once everyone had noticed she had taken a few advance classes.
The group followed suit, pointing at Maya and laughing. "Teacher's Pet! Teacher's Pet!"
Maya hated being made fun of. It was probably why she sympathized with Mr. Mytho. She had been there, and it wasn't pleasant. She had learned to get through the hard times, though. It wasn't easy.
The pink Acara felt tears well up in her eyes, but she knew that if she didn't let the insults get to her, they would pass away and the crowd would find someone new to pick on.
Still, she left the lunchroom in tears.
What she didn't see, rushing out and covering her eyes, was someone very important, who had heard her words.
A tall, orange Aisha wrapped her arm around Maya's shoulder and pulled her into the Guidance Office.
"Congratulations, Girl!" The Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Mayweather, shut the door and pushed Maya gently into a chair before taking her place behind the desk. "You've passed your advance test. You'll be able to take higher level classes next year! Aren't you excited?"
Maya remembered the incident in the cafeteria, and frowned.
Crossing her arms on the desk, Mrs. Mayweather raised a brow and frowned at Maya's expression. "What's wrong? Is it those mean kids, from lunch? Calling you teacher's pet?"
Maya nodded numbly. "It's only going to get worse, now that I'll be back in the advanced classes. I know it's not supposed to get to me... but.." Maya's voice cracked, and she slumped in her chair.
"Girly, do you remember what I taught you last year?"
Maya nodded, smiling a bit. It was what had got her through the hard times, and a fond life lesson she had clung to.
Mrs. Mayweather grinned. "Good. Don't forget that no matter what anyone says, you have value. You are still special. You're smart, you care about your studies. You're important to the future. So, just because they start calling you names again doesn't mean you can start to forget that."
Maya nodded, her smile growing. "Thanks, Mrs. Mayweather. May I go now?"
Mrs. Mayweather nodded, but before Maya was out the door she stopped her. "Maya?"
The pink Acara turned around. "Yes?"
"I think you know of someone else who could use a little life lesson."
Maya was puzzled for a moment, but then she realized what Mrs. Mayweather had meant and went dashing out the door. If she was lucky, she might be able to catch Mr. Mytho before he left for the day.
"Mr. Mytho!" Maya panted, standing in the doorway. She had wanted to make sure she caught up with the History teacher, so she had run all the way to his class.
The Lupe looked up from his desk, where he was slashing at a paper with his dreaded red pen. "What is it... Maya, is that right?" He seemed to stare at her face for a moment, trying to recognize her. "Yes, Maya. The only student bothering to pass my class. What do you want?"
Her face flushed with nervousness. Perhaps he would yell at her, or kick her out of his class for interrupting him for some stupid reason. She had come all this way, though. It was important to her, and she knew that what she was about to do might save her teacher from resigning.
Digging into her skirt pocket, Maya pulled out a five neopoint coin and held it up. "Do you want this?" she asked, a sly grin spreading across her face.
Mr. Mytho squinted his eyes, then shrugged and nodded. "Sure, who wouldn't? Is there a point..?"
Before he could finish she held up a finger to stop him. "Why do you want it?" she asked.
"Because." Mr Mytho sighed, growing annoyed. "It is a five neopoint coin. If I were to have it, I would be five neopoints richer."
"So." Maya's grin widened. "You want it because it has value?"
"Yes. I thought you were smarter than-" Before Mr. Mytho could finish, Maya held up her hand again.
Then she did something odd. She tossed the coin on the ground and stomped on it. She shoved her foot on it hard enough to push it through the floor, though it never budged. Then she picked it up again, and yelled at it. Yes, she yelled at the coin.
"You're stupid! Ugly! No one loves you! You're mean! Evil! You should just run away and never come back!" She was glaring, and shouting loud enough that flecks of spit flew from her mouth.
After a few deep breaths, she had calmed enough to hold up the coin and ask again, "Mr. Mytho, do you still want it?"
With brows raised in confusion, he nodded again. "Yes, Maya. I would still like to be five neopoints richer."
Maya smiled. "Mr. Mytho..." she continued, still holding up the coin. "When you start a new school... or job... you're like this coin. You have value. Then, sometimes, people come along and call you names. They yell at you, they call you ugly or stupid or mean. But, like this coin, even after they call you names, you still have value. You should never forget that you are worth something, and people saying things won't change that."
She turned the coin in her hand, then placed it on Mr. Mytho's desk. He seemed to be smiling, but it was hard to tell.
"Thank you, Maya."
"You're welcome." She gathered her books and left.
Alone in his classroom, Mr. Mytho turned the coin over in his large paw. On the edge of his desk was the resignation form he had planned to fill out, thinking that there was no way these kids would stop teasing and start learning.
His eyes traveled back to the coin. It was still worth the five neopoints, no matter if it was stepped on or made fun of.
He slipped the coin in his pocket, then picked up the form. With one last glance at the door, where Maya had stood and shouted at the coin, he crumpled the form and threw it away.
On her way to her morning class, Maya paused and looked into the window of Mr. Mytho's class. She smiled when she saw what was going on inside.
He was pointing to the board, and though some kids were still sleeping, more were paying attention with smiles on their faces. Best of all, though, was the form that he had been filling out to quit his job. It was still in the trash, crumpled and discarded, and Maya was sure he would never look at it again.