The greatest teachers leave a lasting impact on our lives. They shape our self-esteem, help us value ourselves and guide us in unimaginable ways. Most of us were lucky to have at least one teacher who profoundly impacted our life.
And sometimes, they go so far above and beyond in such beautiful, unexpected ways that they take our breath away. We recently asked the Love What Matters community to share why they still remember their favorite teacher. Their answers are nothing short of extraordinary.
1. Being there to help grieve the loss of a family member
“Joe Kasik. My first grade year I struggled in school due to disabilities at the time and was constantly sent to his class even though he taught 2nd grade because my teacher couldn’t handle me. He always made me feel a part of his class, then he became my 2nd grade teacher and everything was great, in 3rd grade my grandfather who raised me passed and Mr. Kasik helped me through it. then in 4th grade my sister passed and he came to the funeral and helped me through it. Throughout tbe years he remained in touch just to make sure I was ok. He passed a few years back but without him I would have dropped out of school and become depressed. Because of him I am working on becoming a teacher to help other kids who need someone.”
2. Helping people feel special for the first time in their life
“Mr. Pabst, my 9th grade math teacher. School was horrible for me, home life was terrible. I didn’t bother doing my assignments and would just spend the day writing in my notebook. One day I left it in his class and he returned it to me with the most beautiful journal and encouraged me to continue writing and that he would grade my work by the content of this journal instead of math assignments. I think it was the first time I had ever felt special. Ever. In those tiny 16 years of life. He shined a light on something I didn’t believe I had. Which was self worth. I’ll never forget the man with silly ties and pink converse. He gave me something I could keep for a lifetime.”
3. Inspiring other students to become teachers
“Mr. Zinnell. High school English teacher. We couldn’t stand each other the beginning of my sophomore year, and he called me out for EVERYTHING. When he discovered I loved to read, things moved to grudging respect. I think it’s safe to say by my senior year in AP he was my all-time favorite teacher, and I’m pretty sure I was one of his favorites as well. He’s the reason I’ve been a high school English teacher for the last 13 years!”
4. Making children feel loved
“Ms. Olsen, Ball Camp Elementary, Knoxville, TN. 4th grade. She is the teacher who in 1979 said ‘I think she might have ADHD.’ She got me the help I needed while other teachers previously and in the future would say it did not exist but that I was lazy or worse. But the main reason I remember her and love her so fondly after all these years is her caring for her students, one in particular. We had a student who was in a very bad situation. Very poor, always dirty and her hair always a big rats nest. Looking back now I’d say there was also abuse. Everyday Ms. Olsen would take her to the bathroom in our portable classroom and clean her up and comb out her hair. Before picture day, she asked the class to help with a project and bring in hair bows, tights, and other little girl things. I remember the day of picture day we brought in the items, Ms Olsen brought a beautiful dress and we put everything in our storage closet. When the girl arrived, she was given the surprise. She was so excited and so happy. Ms Olsen took her to the gym, she got a full shower, got dressed and all pretty with her hair bows and tights a little purse and even gloves. That girl glowed with happiness. She taught me to be giving, humble and caring as well as my school stuff.”
5. Helping children heal
“Lisa Bozzo was my Junior year English teacher and one of my two favorite teachers. At the beginning of the year she gave us each a journal. At the beginning of class she would put a writing prompt on the board. Whether you want to call it coincidence or Godincidence the writing prompts always seemed to have to do with the things that I was struggling with due to trauma. Those writing prompts gave me an outlet for my thoughts and emotions, where I could get them out so that I wasn’t bottling them up and where I could express them without having to disclose what was going on in my life. Those writing prompts were so beneficial.”
6. Understanding us in ways others cannot
“I’m not sure of exactly when she became aware of the fact that I was in a teen dating violence relationship. One day though she called me into her classroom before lunch. I was expecting to be lectured and asked why I was staying with my boyfriend and to be told to break up with him. That’s not what she did though. She sat me down, held my hands and told me how worthy and valuable I was as a person and that I deserved love and to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect. She would sit me down every day from the middle of my Junior year until October of my Senior year and would tell me the same thing, until I became brave enough to break up with my abusive ex. It is because she sat me down every day and told me that I was worthy and valuable and that I deserved to be treated with dignity, love, compassion and respect (though I had a hard time believing those words in the beginning) that I did ultimately break up with my abusive boyfriend. I didn’t know it then but she understood my situation and why I stayed for so long better than anyone.”
7. Literally saving lives
“Mr. Sanders. He was my 11th grade English teacher. He introduced me to my love of poetry. He helped me find the one thing I have always felt like I was good at. He helped give me a safe outlet for my feelings when all I knew how to do was self harm to express my hurt. Even when I was at my lowest, I always knew that I was good at something, even if it was just something for me. When I spent 32 days in a mental hospital, poetry is what helped get me through and helped me communicate what I was experiencing to the staff. I’m not sure I would be alive without the love of poetry Mr. Sanders instilled in my life.’
8. Showing compassion when we need it most
“Mary Lindsey Smith and I still love her because she was so kind to me while I was 16 and pregnant…. Other teachers looked down on me and judged me but not Mrs. Smith. When I had morning sickness (everyday) she would hold my hair back and clean up whenever I didn’t make it. I love you Mrs. Smith for being kind to a scared teen mom in my time of need. Now I’m a home health nurse and my daughter is 21 with 2 beautiful boys of her own. Without you my pregnancy with her would’ve been a lot harder! I love you. I’ll never forget you.”
9. Being the only shining light in an otherwise dark world
“Mrs. Barker. I was made fun of a lot, and due to my mother’s negligence due to drugs, I often went to school in dirty, unclean clothes. I was poorly cared for. She never judged me. I struggled a lot with math, she said ‘do what you can and I’ll help you with the rest after class.’ When I was in the last part of the school year, we got evicted from our apartment. My mother didn’t drive so when I was invited to her retirement party with the class, she drove 40 some odd miles out of her way to come get me. She respected me and helped me more the any other teacher. She didn’t judge me based on how I looked, or what circumstances I was under. She treated me with more care and love than any teacher I ever had. I will always remember her. Thank you Mrs. Barker. For lifting my world up when nobody else did.”
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