Twenty-five years had passed since my time in 4th grade when I decided to pay a visit to my teacher. Having moved to a new school, she was then an assistant principal. Stepping into the building, I easily located her in the front office. It only took a minute after reminding her of my name to see her eyes light up with recognition.
“You were my favorite teacher,” I told her. “I loved 4th grade, and now I’m a teacher and I love my career. You were my inspiration.”
Without a word, she enveloped me in a bear hug, and I swear I saw a few tears as she pulled back and thanked me. It was one of my favorite moments–ever.
In May, as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, it becomes apparent that a mere week or any other designated time for recognition is hardly adequate to appreciate the tremendous impact, contributions, and accomplishments of the teachers in our lives. Let’s recognize not only those teachers who guided us within the classroom, but also others who assumed the role of mentors along the way.
Teachers offer the antidote to imposter syndrome
In this age of imposter syndrome when all manner of accomplished, smart, capable people admit to experiencing its sting, let’s reflect on all the teachers who prevented or squelched this awful feeling in us. Let’s celebrate the teachers who encouraged us, supported us, lifted us up, and taught us in the best ways they knew.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
My first career was in the classroom, as a public school special education teacher working with students with disabilities. After teaching for decades, I became an instructional mentor for new teachers before moving into other roles in professional development and program evaluation.
I want to acknowledge some of the remarkable and memorable educators from my life who left indelible marks on my journey and how, in their presence they made me feel in ways I didn’t always feel outside of their classrooms:
In thanks to my teachers:
With my 4th grade teacher, I felt creative (I didn’t always). She encouraged and allowed for my creativity and trusted me to go my own way with it.
With my 8th grade math teacher, I felt engaged (I didn’t always). He used an abundance of humor to make algebra not only accessible but also fun and exciting.
With my 10th grade English teacher, I felt smart (I didn’t always). He didn’t allow me to choose an easier English course, because he felt I was capable of success in the more challenging course.
With my undergraduate professor, I felt capable (I didn’t always). He used such clear examples and metaphors to help me understand the intricacies and nuances of child development and disabilities.
With my graduate school professor, I felt worthy (I didn’t always). She took the time to give me rich, meaningful, actionable feedback on my research methods that pushed me to think deeper and be better.
With my teacher colleagues, I felt I belonged (I didn’t always). Most welcomed me and graciously shared their best lessons and instructional strategies (especially when I was new to a school), which helped strengthen my own teaching.
With my teacher mentees, I felt trusted (I didn’t always). They believed in my ability to support them, and they shared their very personal challenges and roadblocks.
With my students I felt important (I didn’t always). They let me know that even though they didn’t love math, or English, they trusted that what I was teaching them was what they needed.
With my parents (may their memories be for a blessing) I felt loved (I didn’t always). Even when I wasn’t a perfect daughter (and I wasn’t!) and caused them stress and strife, I never once questioned how they felt about me.
Take a moment to thank a teacher today. We can learn from anyone, regardless of age, position, relationship, title or label.
And remember too, that you’re a teacher to someone — your kids, your clients, your colleagues, or your students. How do they feel in your presence?
Check out my articles on professional development and learning.