Everyone has someone they look up to, and for a lot of us, those people are teachers.
After all, your favorite teacher is the one who believed in you when others didn’t, the one who let you stay in their classroom after school, the one who patiently supported you when you had a hard time learning algebra, and the one who made an impact in your life by listening and showing love.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Day, here are 9 stories celebrating teachers who inspired students, went above and beyond, and made a difference inside and outside of class.
Fifth-grade teacher Robert Gardley may be new to the teaching profession, but putting students first comes second-nature to him. So what’s the big secret to his educational philosophy? “Find something that you can do, whether that’s volunteering, coaching, teaching,” he says. “Give what you can and show kids genuine love.”
Everybody has a favorite teacher—even public figures like former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In the video above, Duncan talks about his inspiring 10th-grade English teacher, who he says challenged him to think “in very different ways” and helped him to develop his voice and express himself thoughtfully.
In high school, Suliyat Olagbenro was always interested in math and science, but the possibilities of her studying engineering weren’t fully realized until she met Mr. Bass. She reflects on how her teacher’s encouragement, high expectations and support helped her through freshman year of college and other parts of life.
By the time Brett Bigham got to fifth grade, he was (in his own words) a monster. He goofed off and got in trouble all the time. He hated school—but his life trajectory changed in sixth grade thanks to Mr. Brandt, who Bigham says “got me to trust teachers again.”
Washington D.C. teacher James Cunningham believes that a student’s education shouldn’t be confined to the walls of the classroom. In this Q&A, the high school art teacher talks about taking his student-artists on trips around the world, and offers advice to first-year teachers coming into city schools.
Teachers learn just as much from kids as kids learn from them. State Teacher of the Year Anna Baldwin reflects on the lessons learned teaching at a tribal alternative school in Montana. “You experience a sense of welcome from the community, which has been waiting there for you all along.”
“Our students make us better people.” Joy Souza, a charter middle school principal in Providence, Rhode Island, looks back on her 13-year educational career—and how the rewarding relationships she has with her students help her go to sleep at night thinking, “Wow, I’m making a difference. I’m making an impact.”
It’s not uncommon for kids to hate math, but this Atlanta teacher is on a quest to change that mindset. Valerie Camille Jones shares what drew her to numbers and formulas, how math is used practically everywhere you go, and what it was like to hang out with former-President Obama.
Corey Carter always thought he would work in a lab, but was led to teaching after discovering how much he wanted to spread his love for science. The Baltimore educator offers his take on Black male educators, building a positive classroom culture and helping students become leaders outside of class.