Education official stirs real tears with fictional tale

Posted to: Education News Virginia Beach


At a gathering of teachers in an Oregon school district last week, a high-level official told a story that might sound familiar.

It's about Teddy Stoddard, the boy who got off to a bad start in Miss Thompson's fifth-grade class with his dirty clothes and listless academic performance.

At Christmas, he brought his teacher a rhinestone bracelet with missing stones and a half-used bottle of cheap perfume wrapped in a grocery bag. They had belonged to his dead mother.

Horrified that she misjudged the boy, Miss Thompson stayed with Teddy after school every day

until he caught up. Over the years, he kept his teacher informed of his progress with three letters. In the final one, Teddy is a doctor and asks Miss Thompson to take his mother's place at his upcoming wedding.

Teachers in Eugene, Ore., sniffled and gave a standing ovation to Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, the assistant to the U.S. secretary of education, when she finished the story.

But former Virginia Beach resident Elizabeth Ungar wrote "Three Letters from Teddy" nearly 40 years ago about a boy she called Teddy Stallard.

Reached last week at her new home in Rockingham, N.C., she was dismayed to hear it's still being passed off as truth. "I think it's absolutely wrong to do that."

Ungar wrote the story under her first married name, Elizabeth Silance Ballard. It was first published in 1974 by HomeLife magazine, a Baptist family publication. She said she gets requests to republish it every year, and it has been in several "Chicken Soup" compilations.

Many of the details, including the homemade wrapping paper and Teddy's wedding date, were taken from her own life. She remembers vividly her humiliation at giving a home-grown present to a teacher as a child in North Carolina, she said. The broken bracelet and perfume were a tidbit from a teacher friend who had gotten such a gift from a child in the class where she was a long-term substitute.

Ungar, 67, lived in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach from 1989 to 2005, working as a bank manager, earning a degree at Old Dominion University and working as a social worker in Norfolk.

Over the years, many people have told her they identify with the child.

"So many times, childhood is a living hell. When you know how it feels, it hits you."

One of Melendez's aides said Melendez was "saddened to learn it's not a true story. There are so many teachers who are making such an impact that many of us know."

Lauren Roth, (757) 222-5133, lauren.roth@pilotonline.com

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I am saddened that a "high-level official" would tell a story as true that s/he had not verified.


What cave had you been hiding in all your life.

ALL HIGH LEVEL OFFICIALS AND POLITICIANS, lie!!!! Why do you think most are lieawyers????

They are all thieves and liars, embezzelers, frauds and phonies.

Oh,...you were being funny?


It happens all the time right here in the Pilot, Archie. Especially when a reporter quotes the words of some politician on just about ANY issue.

Read the article before you comment!

Did any of you actually read the article? She wrote the story as fiction -- never intended to be told as the truth. She herself said she's horrified that others are trying to pass it off as truth. Good grief, people, READ!


There are two MAJOR "she's" in this article. If you had actually read it for comprehension, you would understand the comments from Archie & me. We were speaking of the political "appointee" (read mini-Czar) who accidently passed off the story as true. We were NOT referring to the original authoress, whom we know wrote the story as fiction. YOU are the "weakest link" in this case.

No surprise here....

....everything about this administration and everyone in it is a LIE.....

Dude its FICTION,........relax

if using something from someones personal life can be used for good and change someones path..........so be it.... praise the education official for not talking about sex education without your parental consent........next someone is going to figure out how to blame Obama.....lol


This whole administration lives in Never Never Land........

The biggest liars

They say that fishermen are the biggest liars, but I don't know. It looks like some of these teachers can give them a good run for their money.

Inspirational Fiction

Just like the TV shows on TV during the 5o's and 60's, when we were all brainwashed to believe that the common every day American could work hard, and have a virtually stress free life. Ha! Boy were we mislead.

Seems to be the way of the world these days. If it's not the polititians lying to us, it's someone else that should be respected, but who have lost their credibility, due to their untruthful ways.

No wonder we can't trust a thing we are told anymore. Sad, very, very sad.

From Vietnam...

From Vietnam and watergate, to the "War on Drugs" it has been one one fabulous fantasy after another, and we have bought into it, line hook and sinker!

Shame on us for being so gulible and complacent! It's not a "gentlemens word" world anymore, one must verify everything one is told. Facts are facts, fiction is fiction and BS is still BS, now matter how good it sounds!

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