What my favorite teacher means to me

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To me, teachers — whether they’re in a public, private, or home setting — are absolutely invaluable. I’ve always admired those who choose to enter the profession or opt to teach their own children. Teaching seems to be much more than standing in front of a classroom and dispensing logic — great teachers genuinely get to know and care for their students in the process, and students in turn for their teachers. So I thought it would be most appropriate to celebrate a few of my favorite teachers — and a few of yours.

I’ve had a few really amazing teachers in my time: my first was my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Carr. I’ll never, ever forget how positively magical she seemed to me. This was aided by the fact that she had a fairy wand she would carry around. This was usually used to tap one child on the head toward the end of nap time, and that child would be her helper for the rest of the day. So naturally most of us laid on our mats totally wide awake, closing our eyes tightly while hoping she’d believe we were sleeping and pick us.

Another very awesome teacher was Mr. Craft, the theatre teacher at my high school. I wasn’t actually a student in his class — I wrote an article about a play they were putting on in my junior year and just started hanging out in the auditorium instead of going back to my journalism class after lunch. Mr. Craft had, and most likely still has, this amazing ability to really connect with his students — he’s really one of those movie-type teachers who motivates, encourages, and produces exceptional human beings.

I asked everyone who follows us on Facebook which teachers you loved and why — and totally dug what you told me:

My 5th grade teacher Mrs Laggata… now that I think about it, she was really confident and able to let the class get a little off topic if it was still an interesting conversation we were having… you know, one you learn from. I think it is common for college professors to follow where the discussion goes but really difficult for grade school teachers to do the same. I can think of many reasons why that might be, but it is still a shame that so many classrooms can’t follow where the learning is taking them. — Brooke R.
Mr. Hopwood. My HS humanities teacher. He opened the door to philosophy and challenged me to open my mind and debate on an intellectual level no one ever had. He had a Pink Floyd Division Bell poster on the wall & had us analyze the lyrics to Wish You Were Here for an assignment. For my final I wrote a psychoanalysis of Alex in a Clockwork Orange. I am forever grateful for him challenging me to not just think outside the box, but to analyze the crap out of the box and appreciate the journey of discovery. — Angelica K.
Photo by cliff1066™, used under Creative Commons license.
My husband — I *love* that after six years of working through the challenges of curriculum, recalcitrant students and increasingly tiny budgets, he still gets excited about teaching and wants to learn more to be an even better teacher. Can you imagine a better example? — Ariel H.
My high school sociology teacher. I failed his class the first time, so he let me take it again, and I fell in love with it. He challenged me to think about the world from other perspectives than just my own. — Jen L.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Comments on What my favorite teacher means to me

  1. I agree with how influential sociology and political science teachers can be in high school. I remember how cloudy my understanding of political rhetoric was before I took those classes, and how important it is to have a teacher who can bait and switch you to make you realize both sides of an issue. So valuable to kids who are still mastering the power of understanding their fellow humans.

  2. Miss Young in 2nd grade. She created “Young Publishing House” and had her students write books all year long and make them into actual book form using cardboard and wallpaper. Upon completion of your first book, you got to bring it to the principal to read it out loud to them. I ate every little bit of that up and LOVED it so much that I went home and demanded my parents set up my own “publishing house” to make more books at home. I still have a lot of those books to this day!

    • That’s a fantastic idea! My third grade teacher, Mrs. Kunst, also allowed her students to use their time for creativity. I used the time mostly for writing, but she also encouraged drawing, skits, and story-telling. I didn’t encounter that same boundary-free education until I was in college.

    • I *love* this idea! The name Young Publishing House is very clever too. I’d love to share this idea on my blog as a book-related craft sometime. Anything that gets kids excited about reading and writing is fantastic in my book! (edited to add – no pun intended!)

  3. Mr. Landmann, my 3rd grade teacher. The only time we used our books was at the beginning of the year when we made covers for them. Each 6 week period of the school year was themed around world history, and we learned other subjects during that time as well. At the end of the 6 weeks, we had a ‘museum’ where we would stage the classroom as a clan of cave people or put on a Renassaince themed play or make a Shakespeare movie on a spaceship. There was always music playing and discussions. He really taught us how to learn instead of just teaching what was required. Hands down best teacher ever.

  4. I had the best band teacher in high school. He cared, taught well, made things fun. In our marching band (grades 9-12) a lot of people considered him their second dad (including myself). He taught me responsibilities, yelled at me if I didn’t finish my homework for other classes, taught me to say I love you to my parents whenever I spoke to them because you never know when you will talk to them next. Its hard to describe what he meant to me.
    2 years after I graduated high school the marching band was coming back from the State Competition in the middle of the night. He was in the lead bus sitting in front with his wife and granddaughter. That bus hit an overturned semi on the highway and he was killed along with the bus driver, his wife, his granddaughter, and the band’s student teacher. The entire community was devastated. It has got to be one of the worst things that happened in my life and so many others. The out pouring of support from the community was amazing. Teachers influence so many people, and his death was an example of that. He died 6 years this month and we are all still hurting from it.

  5. I’ve had a bunch of really memorable teachers growing up, but I’ll briefly mention two of them. My junior year in high school I took AP Chemistry and had the wonderful Dr. Johnson (lovingly called Dr. J by his students). What made him so great was how he went above and beyond for us. He stayed after school multiple days a week to go over homework and make sure we understood the material in preparation for the AP exam. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten a 4 on the exam.
    In college, my last two years I took two classes with Dr. Halgin (the female version. Her husband was also a Dr., also a psychology professor at the university, and also a great teacher). She was so easy to talk to and work with that I willingly got up early to go to her class. She recently retired, which is a shame, but I’m so glad that I got to be taught by her.

  6. oh, i have a list a foot long of teachers i am completely in love with. i don’t know if that’s the luck of having awesome teachers or something to do with my psyche…

    but the very most amazing was my 4th grade teacher. i could, of course, go on, but my favorite story about him is one i didn’t even know about until i was an adult – when he called my mother (also a teacher, and wonderful) after school to tell her that she was not to make me wear a dress to school again, because i was miserable. he was right, of course – and it worked =) i guess it’s just amazing to me that a teacher (with so many students) can care about you as much as you care about them, in some cases.

  7. I had some pretty awesome teachers so it’s hard to pick just one. Ms. Pilling, my high school English teacher was pretty pivotal in my life. She made me feel that being a bookworm was not only okay, but something to embrace and be proud of- which was a big deal growing up in a small town that was sort of sports obsessed and being a “geek” was definitely not cool. Of course, the other teacher that made a huge impact was actually my dad. He was the band teacher at my school. My dad was one of those teachers that genuinely cared about his students. I love that I got to see him at work and see the impact he was able to have on so many people’s lives. He put a huge emphasis on commitment and integrity and he also believed that band was a place where there were no MVP’s, everyone was equally valuable and deserved equal treatment. Band became a place where kids in our school knew they could belong, be valued, appreciated, and respected for who they were.

  8. Dr Houck at U of Portland. She taught biology, embryology and animal behavior. She lead a summer session in London at the London Zoo and Natural History Museum and I got to go. She was a fabulous woman in many ways. Sadly, she died of pancreatic cancer two years ago.

  9. My astronomy teacher in college. I got to take two of his classes, because I found out the semester before I graduated that the first didn’t count but the follow-up course did (as well as dozens of others)–so I picked it. I’m not GREAT at astronomy as far as picking out constellations, but he inspired me in so many ways and kept me from getting “senior-itis”–especially hard since I hated my only other teacher at the time. In his class, I ended up being the “audience.” No one would speak up and ask questions, so I would ask a lot of things to which I already knew the answer if people looked confused.

    One time he pulled me aside and said I seemed to be having difficulty with the constellations, and asked if he could help. I told him, “I see dippers where there are no dippers.” He looked at me quizzically and said “show me,” so we stepped outside into a clear, cloudless, Midwest night. I pointed out 8 different “dippers” with some binoculars, and he stood there like I’d completely blown his mind. I thought he was trying to find a tactful way to tell me I’m an idiot, but in an awed voice he thanked me. He’d never understood why so many people have trouble with that section of astronomy, but so good at others. He took that summer off teaching the class to re-evaluate some teaching techniques.

    He taught me that if there seems to be a disconnect in communication, ask instead of assuming. He taught me to be humble and to re-evaluate my own teaching/coaching/management techniques if something isn’t working. He reminded me that we are all individuals with different perspectives that are all worth considering.

  10. My favorite teacher was my sixth grade teacher, Mike Cantlon. He was (and is) a teacher for gifted middle-schoolers. Not the kind that do well in programs like APPLE, the overachievers, the ones who ask for extra homework; we were the kind that broke the records for standardized tests but were failing all our classes. He helped develop a middle school for the kids like us, so we wouldn’t slip through the cracks. He also founded Satori Summer Camp in the early eighties. It’s a college-like summer camp for gifted seventh- through twelfth-graders. Most of my current friends started going as twelve-year-olds, and, ten years later, we’re counselors. Mike created this camp for the offbeat kids who craved social and intellectual interaction with our equals. He has a credo of, “Listen. Just listen,” and is vehemently pro-kid. He is the most zen man I know. Ten years after meeting him, he is still one of my greatest inspirations.

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