A photo of an empty classroom with desks

I’ll admit that I sometimes struggle to recall the names of people I meet, but I can tell you the name of every memorable teacher I’ve ever had. Years later and I can still picture my first-grade teacher cartwheeling whenever anyone answered a question correctly. I remember her infinite enthusiasm and sunny outlook on life. Years later, I can still picture the moment my fourth-grade teacher told me I could be a writer one day. I held onto those words, wanting nothing more than for that to come true. 

There are teachers who instill a sense of possibility in their students. In my mind, these teachers are worth honoring. They see something in us that no one else sees, inspiring us to become the people we are today. The broadcast journalists became who they are because of a teacher who praised their public speaking skills. The engineers became who they are because of a teacher who made math fun. The artists became who they are because of a teacher who encouraged them to reach their fullest creative potential. 

In my mind, these teachers [who instill a sense of possibility in their students] are worth honoring.

In other words, the adults we know who are achieving success were once children in a classroom, given the gift of an education. Whether it’s a musical talent or an affinity for physics, teachers awaken a passion in their students. Year after year, student by student, these teachers are shaping the future.

While some of us are lured by free office snacks and unlimited vacations, teachers are following an intrinsic motivation to make a difference. Their daily efforts to impart wisdom, fight inequity and influence the next generation are no simple feat. It usually comes with overwhelming anxiety, angry parents and few bathroom breaks. Even so, teachers aren’t persuaded by the perks, prestige or higher pay of another career because a higher purpose drives what they do.

The teachers I know have hearts unlike anyone else. They care deeply about every facet of the profession: the subject they teach, the curriculum they plan and the learning outcomes they strive for. They show up.

They show up before the sun has risen in the morning to practice their lesson plans. They show up after school to supervise the speech and debate club. They show up late at night while grading endless papers. They show up at all hours because their students’ well-being weighs heavily on their minds. They do it all again the next day because their job isn’t just a job, it’s a calling. 

Their job isn’t just a job, it’s a calling. 

With any job, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and dwell on the difficulties. This is especially true for today’s educators, who are expected to meet unattainable standards with limited resources and support. Class sizes are increasing while state funding is shrinking. Standardized tests limit innovative instruction. Students’ mental health is a growing concern. 

The truth of the matter is that teachers impact countless lives. Like tossing a single stone into the ocean and seeing the ripples expand, their ceaseless belief in their students will have enduring effects. Each mind that they mold and heart that they touch is another stone in the ocean, another wave of change. 

At my grandmother’s funeral, students she taught from every generation and walk of life showed up, sharing their stories and the memories they had from an impossible-to-forget fifth grade year. Teaching was the great legacy she left behind. Now more than ever, our students deserve greatness. They deserve a challenge and an opportunity. They deserve a leader, whose kindness and passion are overflowing. 

They deserve you, dear teacher. We cannot thank you enough.

What teacher do you remember most from your adolescent years? Was there a teacher who made a positive impact on your life?

Image via Jose Leon, Darling Issue No. 16

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