My second-grade teacher made me love Ramona Quimby.
I’ve never forgotten my multiplication tables, thanks to my fourth-grade teacher.
My fifth-grade teacher taught me to confidently project my voice (much to my husband’s chagrin when I’m on video calls!).
My sixth-grade teacher inspired me to be a fast typist and gave me independent reading time so I could accomplish my goal of finishing Gone with the Wind.
My high school Algebra II teacher made me believe I was, in fact, really good at math.
My English literature teacher inspired me to write a book.
My Humanities teachers inspired me to travel the world.
Just seven days a year to celebrate teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week is hardly sufficient. After all, they celebrate our students’ wins and teach them lessons through their mistakes every day of the school year. Let’s reflect on 10 reasons we love teachers…
- A Lifetime of Influence
Growing up in a small town and attending a school with approximately 25 classmates from pre-school through eighth grade, I had a couple of teachers twice and interacted with all the teachers in the building regularly. Whatever the length of interaction, it can go a long way for students, like artist Dean Thompson. Dean shared his teacher’s valuable guidance: “Robert Dominiak was an art teacher who was a mentor to me. He taught me how to look at things with a different perspective, and he helped me put together a portfolio when I applied to the Art Institute of Chicago. With his help I received my degree from there, and I’m still in contact with him to this day.”
My sixth-grade teacher taught typing in a computer lab and wore those plastic glasses that force you to look straight ahead and not down, and he was also my English teacher and basketball coach. Mr. Hoffert had a daily influence on me over several years, and while I could diagram the heck out of a sentence in sixth grade, the one thing I attribute to his influence is that I use those typing skills every day. In a world where Siri and voice recognition may make my typing skills less important in coming the years, Mr. Hoffert taught me the importance of combining speed and perfection — which translates to many aspects of life, not just my “words per minute” calculation.
“You may only spend a year together in the classroom, but the lessons learned and curiosity instilled by a great teacher will last a lifetime,” Gary Urda, SVP Sales, Simon & Schuster, shared with me. So true.
2. No One Right Way to Teach
Ask three teachers how they deliver the lessons associated with a particular required reading book in their school’s curriculum, and you will get three different answers. Depending on the needs of the class in any particular year, a teacher may:
- Adopt the “book club” model, which promotes collaborative, independent reading alongside group activities.
- Invite the author to visit the classroom (in person or virtually) to answer questions from students.
- Feature a local resident who has a similar job or life scenario as the protagonist of the book.
- Assign a more modern, graphic novel to a striving reader so he or she learns the same lesson through a different piece of content.
- Allow for students to choose how they demonstrate their understanding of the text through activities like a written book report, song lyrics, a video, art, a power point presentation, or a podcast.
Recognizing that every student and classroom need is different, Cletus Durkin with Penguin Random House told me that publishers often work with authors and curriculum experts to ensure teachers who want to use a particular book have tools at their fingertips to do so: “We know and appreciate how hard teachers work to nurture, teach and grow their students. We respect them immensely for always looking for new ways to do this, and for their support of our books, authors and illustrators in their work. Teaching is not easy, but it is one of the most important professions that exists.”
3. Working to Meet the Needs of EVERY Student
This has never been truer than it is today. As a child, I started reading prior to entering four-year-old pre-school. When my mom told the pre-school teacher that I could read, she didn’t believe it. And at the time, there weren’t accommodation programs in place to push me. I was blessed with parents who supplemented my in-person instruction and ensured I continued on my reading journey ahead of my class. Not every kid is that lucky, which is why teachers today actively work to accommodate every thriving AND striving student through differentiated instruction. One of my professional peers, Randi Economou, the CEO of Capstone, reinforces the impact teachers have on the lives of every student in their class: “Teachers change the world one life at a time. I love how much they care. Teachers are role models and change agents. Teachers inspire growth and progress. They love kids. They are committed and dedicated, and they make a huge difference in our world. Teachers lead the way and their impact is immeasurable.”
4. Offering a Steady, Positive Adult Influence in a Student’s Life
The pandemic exposed this reason to love teachers like no other time in history. One of the most impactful professional experiences I’ve had in recent years was my morning spent shadowing a third-grade, remote teacher in Rockford, Illinois. This article emerged from my time with Miss Julie, which illustrates the critical role a teacher can play, not just in the education of a young person, but in his or her general health, safety, and well-being.
But even for those students who have excellent support at home and at school, as marketing professional Kia Jefferson attests, teachers still play an important role: “I LOVE that my mom is a PROUD teacher (now retired) and over the years no matter where we would go … grocery store, shopping mall, gas station, etc. a former student of my mother would always find her in the crowd and take the time to stop and say ‘Hi’ and ‘Thank you’ for her passion in the classroom. I’ve seen a teacher’s passion first-hand, and it is something to be admired.”
Teacher Beth Heiss sees the most important teacher in her life as a second parent: “I became a teacher because I wanted to be just like my high school drama teacher. He was a mentor, a teacher, a surrogate father.”
5. Instilling a Love of Learning, Leading to a Lifetime of Curiosity
One of the more memorable books I’ve read in recent years (for more on my #BritReads list of favorites, follow me on your social media channel of your choice) is Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo DaVinci. Toward the end of the book, Isaacson summarizes the things we can all learn from the Renaissance Man. The first one is: “Be curious, relentlessly curious.” While most of us will likely never paint the next Mona Lisa or dissect human cadavers to determine why people yawn, those of us who are professionally curious will always strive for more. Ben Mondloch, the founder and owner of Cherry Lake Publishing, credits his teachers with the foundation that made him who he is today. “Mr. Peterson taught me leadership when he presented me with a Red Squad captain jersey,” Mondloch said. “Ms. Barrett piqued my interest in economics with her simulation about moving grain across the country. Sister Mary Kay fostered my love of reading when she presented me with my favorite book (The Witch, The Cat, and The Baseball Bat). Ms. Ballaou taught me empathy and compassion when she unconditionally loved a broken 14-year-old boy. So, why do we love teachers? Because they change lives. They changed mine. Teachers have a lasting impact on their students, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and driving them to become the best versions of themselves.”
6. Teachers Don’t Give Answers, They Foster Discovery
At a time when nearly every fact is “Google-able,” the very process of learning and discovery has become far more important than getting the right answer. When I was a senior in high school, the most important test of my young life was my calculus final. Finishing the test with an A versus B meant the difference between graduating Valedictorian or Salutatorian of my class. I remember being surprised, delighted, and relieved when the teacher gave us permission to load the derivative equations into our graphing calculators ahead of the test. What my 17-year-old self didn’t recognize was that memorizing the equation wasn’t the important part–to get the right answer, we had to know which equation was appropriate for each question and then how to use it. In the end, I demonstrated persistence spending several hours loading each equation into the calculator, but I got an A on the test.
In life, there’s often no equation to help you reach the right answer–it takes persistence, professional curiosity, trial and error, mistakes, and little victories. And more often than not, it’s the journey of discovery that has the greatest impact. Thanks to Mr. Schmidt for helping me prioritize problem solving over rote memorization.
7. Sacrificing Personal Lives for Students
The days can be long. The nights are spent at extra-curricular activities and/or prepping for the next day. Often, these arduous schedules are at the expense of time spent with their own children and families in exchange for low wages. Yet, teachers demonstrate time and time again that their students come first. Kathleen Rourke with Candlewick Press shares the sacrifices she’s experienced: “I have the utmost respect, regard, love for educators. Theirs is one of the most important and difficult of all professions. They give so much of themselves to create kind, thoughtful, and well-informed citizens. What could be more important than that? One of the multitude of reasons that I love teachers is their steadfast dedication to do what is right for every child.”
8. Infusing a Love of Reading — The Foundation of Learning
Some of my favorite memories from school involve books. Whether it was Miss Trah reading Ramona Quimby books out loud to the class each afternoon, the 10 minutes of independent reading time in sixth grade that allowed me to knock out another chapter of Gone with the Wind, or the My Life books Mrs. Grant assigned for our class to write for a senior project, reading and writing was the foundation of my learning — like everyone else.
As a thriving reader, diving into a book was my oasis, but great teachers can instill that love of reading in striving readers, too. A small business owner I spoke to, James Regelin, reflects on a life-changing moment in his reading journey. “My third-grade teacher would not let me leave her class until I learned to read,” he shared. “She was relentless because she cared and made me read to the class my last day. I was embarrassed and scared but got through it, which helped me build my confidence for life.”
9. Inspiring the Next Generation of Teachers
Most great teachers were inspired by a teacher in their childhood. Florida teacher librarian Carrie Friday credits her career decisions to an inspirational high school teacher. “I had the most amazing English and journalism teacher in high school. She made EVERYTHING fun, even tests,” Friday told me. “When I was deciding if I wanted to go into education or not, I decided I’d only do it if I was going to teach like she taught. Every time she tells me she is proud of me (which is often even though I’m a state away), I always remind her that I learned all I know about good teaching from her. She trained up a generation of incredible educators without even knowing it, all because we sat in her classroom every day. She’s still influencing students through all the kids each we teach.”
But even for those of us who never contemplated a teaching career, great teachers play a role in shaping our careers of choice. In my first act in life, I was a better journalist because of my investigative journalism professor William Recektenwald. But I believe I’m a stronger leader because he taught me the value in asking good questions and pushed me to be professionally curious to get to the root of an issue.
10. Teachers Love Kids
This final thought needs no explanation. There is no way teachers would do the nine other things captured in this article if they didn’t have a profound love for the next generation.
My hope is that these 10 anecdotes inspire you to thank the teacher(s) who made a difference in your life, during Teacher Appreciation Week and every day of the year.