There is often one standout teacher people remember fondly when they look back on their teenage years, and that couldn't be truer for Dominique Acciarito.
But it was only when she spotted something in her phone this week that she realised just how much of an impact her favourite teacher had on her life.
"I went through this rough period after school, and I actually kept her email printed in my laptop case and read it for years," the Melbourne woman, 26, told Yahoo News Australia.
Acciarito recalls being "bullied" at school while contending with challenges at home and decided to reach out to her teacher Ms Wale for help in Year 11. The teacher wrote a letter of recommendation to endorse the student in her move to another school, advocating for Acciarito in a way she had never experienced before. The now mum of one confessed she read and reread the words long after she transferred.
"That sense of belief was life-changing," she said. "I would also have to make up attendances after hours, and she'd sit with me after to make up that time so I wouldn't have to be around other students ... It was everyday after school."
Now a successful business owner and a mum to her son Leo, Acciarito believes the time and support Ms Wale invested in her was invaluable.
Favourite teacher found within hours thanks to social media
On Thursday Acciarito posted a video online asking others to help her find Ms Wale, sharing how she found the email saved in her phone and only fully realises now with the maturity of an adult how "special" her teacher was.
The video quickly gained traction and within four hours she was sending an email to the school where Ms Wale is now employed after social media users managed to find the teacher online.
"It is surreal to have 80,000 people try stalk this poor teacher of mine," Acciarito laughed. "But many people understand the difference just one teacher can make, they're the one that get us to where we are."
Hours after sending off a 'thank you' email to Ms Wale, Acciarito received a response back — with the teacher and student reconnecting after 10 years of no contact.
'Undervalued' profession as Australia suffers teacher shortage
Australia is in the grips of a teacher shortage crisis and Victoria has recently made it free to study secondary teaching in the state in the coming years in a bid to attract more people to the profession.
It is believed the large amount of pressure placed on teachers during covid lockdowns pushed many to breaking point and only exacerbated feelings they were "undervalued", with Acciarito's videos prompting a discussion on the topic online.
"I don't think we realise how much effort teachers go into creating that safe space... it takes time away from their family, from social time," she said.
The teacher-student duo are both delighted to be back in touch, sharing they both had a positive impact on one another's lives, and have vowed to not lose contact again.
"Promise that you'll keep in touch Dominique and big hugs," Ms Wale signed off her email.
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