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Clarence Seniors Receive Letters Written While at Clarence Center Elementary School

Clarence Seniors Receive Letters Written While at Clarence Center Elementary School

Dozens of seniors in Clarence High School’s Class of 2024 received a special letter in the mail as they prepared for their final days of high school, one filled with memories, laughs and support for themselves into the future.

The letter writer: Themselves, while in fifth grade at Clarence Center Elementary School.

“I was surprised and excited when I got it in the mail,” said Ella Zobel. “It meant a lot that she took the time to save them for us.”

The letters are the brainchild of fifth grade teacher Michelle Layer, who has had students writing letters to themselves for about twenty years. The project shifted to being a note for students prior to graduation, and this year’s graduating class is the second that received the letters in the new format. This year’s graduating class included 27 students that were a part of Layer’s fifth grade classroom.

“I just want them to remember that every year of their growth was important,” Layer said. “ I wanted them to have that touchback, that memory as they began their next phase.”

For Lia Meichenbaum, the letter was a surprising reminder of how fast her time in school had gone.

“When I first saw it in the mail, I said ‘I can’t believe I’m already a senior,” Lia said. “I thought I just wrote this letter.”

Among the highlights of reading her letter was seeing what she wrote about friends that she made, and about fun experiences like the school’s annual camping trip.

“I thought it was a cool experience to go on it and to stay overnight,” Lia said. 

Ella Zobel said she remembered writing that she looked forward to her future and what college she’ll attend. The letter was also a reminder of the fun that she had during fifth grade.

“She’d always go out of her way to do things that were so memorable,” Ella said. “Fifth grade was one of my favorite years in all of my schooling, and a lot of that had to do with her being my teacher.”

Though Layer is retiring from teaching this year after 36 years at Clarence Center Elementary School, the letter project is far from over. Layer had students in her class this spring write letters to themselves, meaning that, at least until the early 2030s, she will have some mailing to do. 

“These kids are having the experience of a lifetime,” Layer said. “To connect back to home is so important. They have people here who will always be there for them.”

Lia Meichenbaum poses for a photo while holding a letter she wrote herself in the Clarence Center Elementary School fifth grade class of teacher Michelle Layer. Layer sent her former students their letters prior to their graduation.
Students in Michelle Layer’s fifth grade class write letters to themselves that will be sent to them when they graduate from high school.
Michelle Layer hugs a student while taking part in a retirement ceremony at Clarence Center Elementary School on June 18, 2024.
Michelle Layer works with students in her classroom at Clarence Center Elementary School in May 2022.