26 Powerful Stories About Life-Changing Teachers

    "I really think he saved my life."

    We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share stories about a teacher or coach who changed their life, and the results are heartwarming and inspiring.

    1. The impact of listening:

    "I came from a very conservative home where I was silenced and my opinion was not valued. In junior high, Mrs. Kings encouraged my questions and my philosophical thoughts about the world. Her impact on my life led me to become a human rights lawyer. Wherever you are Mrs. K, you changed my life and led me to save others just through listening to me and teaching me that I was important." —juleigha

    2. Inspired to push beyond limitations:

    "When I was in elementary school I had selective mutism. While I had no problems talking to my classmates or anyone outside of school, I didn't talk aloud in class or to my teachers at all. If I had to go to the bathroom or had a question, I ripped off a little piece of paper from my notebook and handed it to my teacher. Before I learned to write I had a lot of accidents. It wasn't until I was in the fifth grade that I had a teacher who cared enough to try and help me overcome my disability. She worked with me every day after school. We started out with just sounds first, then words. We worked for weeks until we planned the big moment when I would first talk aloud in class and then she took me out to dinner to celebrate. She was the first person in my life to really care about me and believe in me." — onajourny76

    3. Teaching that everyone is worthy:

    "My high school theatre teacher had one of the biggest impacts. To put things in perspective, the teacher she replaced quit by throwing his ID at the assistant principal and then doing doughnuts in the parking lot yelling, 'Free at last!'

    She would help you find what you were good at and enjoyed doing, be it makeup, writing, set design, directing, or any of the many other jobs in theatre besides acting. She never made a single person feel unworthy of being in theatre and treated everyone with respect, no matter how rude or insubordinate they were. She taught so much more than theatre; she taught respect, hard work, inclusion, and happiness." —bamachica96

    4. The power of total acceptance for who you are:

    "My high school art teacher, Mr. Willingham, was an immensely positive influence on me. He was always super understanding of my introversion, mental illness, and queer identity. He listened to me gripe about my then-ignorant mother when I stayed after class and he always encouraged me not to take things too seriously. My struggles with mental illness and gender dysphoria unfortunately got the best of me, causing me to drop out after my junior year, but I kept in touch with Mr. Willingham through social media. He’d wish me happy birthday, like all of my art posts, and cheered me on when I finally got my GED. I remember his kind words, and his uncanny way of easing my troubled mind. I intend to pass along his wisdom once I go back to school, for art education. I hope to change my students’ lives for the better, just as he did with me." —beckinghampalace

    5. A simple adjustment that meant so much:

    "It’s just me and my dad, so I would write Mother’s Day cards to my grandma. All of my teachers just told me to cross out 'Mom' and write 'Grandma' or 'Yayya' (what I call my grandma). However, my first-grade teacher pulled me aside and asked my what I called my grandma, how to spell it, and then printed me my own copy of everything. It really made a big impact on me because instead of trying to fit my giant child handwriting (which I hated and still hate today) I was able to have a Mother’s Day card that looked like all of my classmates. It showed that some teachers really care about each individual student." —charliv17

    6. A place to not only belong, but to thrive:

    "When I was a kid, I had a horrible time fitting in. I was chubby, weird, overly friendly and affectionate, and didn't belong to any clubs or anything. The only class I remotely liked was music class. My teacher, Miss G, was a wonderful woman who always smiled and loved all of her kids like they were her own. She ran a club called Song & Dance for the kids in fifth grade and up, and I desperately wanted to join when I was in fourth grade. I told her it was a dream of mine to join. She smiled and told me of course, as long as I auditioned. So I did. And then she promptly opened the club to fourth graders as well. Now, nine years later, I can not thank her enough for making that decision. She changed my life that day. She gave me a place to belong and, for the next four years I was with her, taught me to love myself and to shine like the star she saw me as. She boosted my confidence so much and taught me to be better than anyone thought I could be. This year she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the whole school and many alumni came together to raise money for her chemo. She's an inspiration to us all. We're not letting this star burn out just yet." —isaaclahey

    7. Words of encouragement at a critical time:

    "My senior year I was a peer helper for my debate teacher/coach. He would fundraise in his personal time to raise money so us kids on the debate team could go to tournaments. He got me to feel motivated and passionate about something at a time in my life where I was feeling deeply depressed. He knew I had a lot of family issues, and he told me one day that he knew I’d accomplish a lot in life in spite of all of that. It meant the world to me, and I think about his words whenever I feel like giving up or settling." —brittanyw49d40489a

    8. The right teacher makes all the difference in the world:

    "I used to be absolutely terrible in math, and the bottom of the class. After my family and I moved to England I got a really amazing math teacher in grade seven. She was very picky about organization of equations and every equal sign had to be on top of each other. She bumped me to top of the class and I ended up graduating with a degree in mathematics. I start my master’s in September." —hayleyf4b47bd22b

    9. Seeing something special and putting the wheels in motion:

    "I was never a great student. At 15, I signed up for a class called Visual Communications, which sounded easy and met my art requirement to graduate. It was in this class that I found my love of design. The woman who taught that class was the first teacher to see something special in me.

    That was half my life ago, and it put the wheels in motion for every bit of career success I’ve had. I ended up going to art school, and I now lead the creative department at an independent record label.

    Shout-out to Ms. Ayers for making me feel like I wasn’t dumb. Just a little different." —alexthegreat

    10. More than just numbers on a scale:

    "Mr. Rekosh was my study hall teacher my freshmen year in high school. I had an eating problem then and I was obsessed with my weight number. One day in study hall, I was talking about my weight to one of the others students and he overheard me and said that he wanted to talk to me outside. In the hallway, he told me that he didn't want to see me in the hospital and that I was more than just numbers. He changed my life and if it wasn't for him, I might have ended up in the hospital." —rebekahc4877fc9c6

    11. A safe classroom can be inspiring:

    "The past year, I had a history teacher, who we'll call Mrs. L. I hadn’t ever had such a supportive teacher of who I was — I’m a gay transgender man in a VERY small town. She had taught us in such an interesting, captivating way, I couldn’t stop listening. I wanted to learn more and more, so much that my grades had improved greatly. Mrs. L’s classroom felt like the safest in the school, and one of the most inspiring ones at that." —glitteryeyebags

    12. Kindred spirits:

    "I’ve always had terrible penmanship, so I would fail everything because my teachers couldn’t read my answers. My fourth grade teacher Ms. Maydahl was the first teacher to make an effort and made me feel smart. She also read Harry Potter in class and turned out to be a lesbian like me, so BONUS! We are still friends on Facebook." —codyu2

    13. Getting a student through the worst of times by listening:

    "Growing up, I was always dealing with family issues or personal ones. I am clinically depressed, my family has a lot going on, and I refuse to open up to anyone. This teacher helped me through one of the worst times in my life by simply coming in early in the morning before school and having me meet him for tea and then after class he would let me stay in his room during my library period and just talk to him about anything. I was able to open up to him and I wish there was more to say to him then thank you. He truly changed me." —alteredreality21

    14. A lifelong connection:

    "Mary Dillon, my third-grade teacher, was tough, loving, and never gave up on any of her students. She made a major impact on my life. She was there for me — and paid for my hair and nails to be done — for one of my high school proms. She was there for me on my wedding day and in the room with me for the birth of my only child, battling and beating cancer all the while. Her constant drive and passion has always given me hope and love. She’s been in my life for over 20 years and I pray for at least another 20 more." —jessicam498809249

    15. An entire shift in perspective:

    "The teacher who absolutely changed my life was a history professor during my sophomore year of college. The class focused on the civil rights movement and the history of the Black Panther Party. I will never forget him telling us on the first day of class that we would be learning from 'the bottom up' instead of 'the top down' — no textbooks, not your normal history class. He taught our class by using materials the textbooks leave out. He introduced books, documentaries, guest speakers, etc. that I had absolutely never heard of and it completely changed everything. I was so wrapped up in learning more that I would often meet with him after class to continue discussions. His approach made me realize that there was so so much more to history than we learn from regular textbooks. It honestly opened my eyes and taught me so much that I changed my major. I knew that after the way the the 'bottom up' approach to learning history impacted me, I had to share with others." —cddeck

    16. A subtle gesture that saved a life:

    "When I was in 10th grade, I had an English teacher who would always check in on our class every day through reading journals. I was diagnosed with depression later that year and didn’t know what I was feeling yet, and I rambled about how I was feeling in my class journal without thinking he actually read them or that he cared. The next day he asked me to wait after class and talked with me, and he got me a pass to the school therapist without embarrassing me in front of everyone. I really think he saved my life. It’s been about five years since I graduated high school now, and I ran into him at Walgreens about six months ago. He still remembered my name. It meant the absolute world to me. I will always be grateful to him for what he did for me." —lexig4120dd3df

    17. The teacher who chipped in to make an impossible experience possible:

    "At the end of my eighth grade year, I won a scholarship to pay for half of the tuition for a prestigious summer choir camp. My family had always struggled with money and couldn’t afford the other half of the tuition. My choir teacher paid for it out of her own pocket. Mrs. G. was one of the most amazing teachers and women I’ve ever met." —bobbiejol

    18. A generous gesture for a family in need:

    "I moved to a new school in the middle of first grade. My sisters were in kindergarten and fourth grade. We were poor, but we had no clue. I remember the office had called me in around Christmas time and asked what I would like for Christmas, so I said a backpack filled with supplies. My sister apparently had asked for the same thing! Well one day, we were playing outside, and a pickup truck starts driving down our street, FILLED with presents, and even a Christmas tree! There were also backpacks FILLED with supplies. It was all three of our teachers that had come together to do this for us. I will never forget the happiness it brought to our home that year, and forever more. I heard, 'be who you needed when you were a kid', and I will always try to be there for kids in need if I’m able to." —evfransham

    19. A suggestion that changed the course of a life:

    "My sixth grade teacher, Ms. Doucet, was the first teacher I ever had that made me feel like I could be smart or good at school. She literally affected the entire trajectory of my life. She convinced me to join the French extended core program despite my initial reservations and objections, and with that I got an honors in linguistics, then a specialized degree in translation, and right now am working as a bilingual security analyst. Literally I wouldn't be sitting where I am at this very moment if it wasn't for her." —

    Joe Purcell, Facebook

    20. It takes a village:

    "My ninth-grade English teacher talked to me and went with me to the school counselor, after noticing I was having a hard time. That school counselor recommended a professional, who's been my therapist now for almost a decade. I went on to get a degree in Psychology and am now a therapist myself. I'm also getting my master's in Psychology next year. My research has to do with teacher-student relationships." —p41c4ae562

    21. A father figure while dad was deployed:

    "When I was in high school my dad was deployed. I had a history teacher who really stepped up in my life and was a stable male figure that I needed. I always ended up talking to him everyday after class, about politics, history, or just life — which is what I always did with my dad. All my teachers were so quick to give me a glance of pity, or tell me how much they appreciate my dad's service, but he was the only one who recognized I needed some focus on me. He always asked me how I was doing and really meant that question. He told me he was proud of me. I read because of him, I became informed because of him, and I was able recognize a need in myself for stability because of him. He did more for me than any teacher I have ever had." —sonyac4771faaac

    22. A hand to hold in a time of crisis:

    "My college professor Ms. Crotty helped me though the hardest time of my life. I was a theatre major In college and I was stage managing my first big show and my dad passed away the week before opening. I got back right in time to do the show with her love and support. She held my hand and pushed me to an amazing show run. She was the reason I survived college and I won’t ever forget the love and kindness she showed me for those three years." —angelw450f6c311

    23. A safe space in the library:

    "i moved from another state in the middle of third grade to a very small school. I had about 20 kids in my grade. Everyone already knew each other and I was considered the outsider. I did have one friend who's still my best friend today, but he moved to another school. The bullying got worse, to the point where I dreaded coming to school and considered suicide. We got a new librarian that year. She saw how the other kids picked on me and formed a bond with me, talking with me about the Twilight books and the Jonas Brothers, how I wanted to grow up to be a writer, and stuff I had going on at home. I would spend my break with her and she talked to the principal and made me to be able to skip gym once a week to help her out in the library, re-shelving books and labeling new ones. She was such a bright light those last two years at that school and I'm forever grateful to her for being so kind to me and helping me to be able to bear my time there." —Savannah Walker, Facebook

    24. Finding your place outside the norm:

    "I was in fifth grade and Miss Crosslin was my teacher. She was VERY unique for the times (early '70s). She had short hair and wore pants almost exclusively — the only skirt I ever saw her in was a kilt. But she was smart, and I felt like we had a lot in common; she was 'outside the norm' and was considered eccentric and I was the kid who never fit in anywhere. She encouraged me to read, to expand my mind, and to never be ashamed of what made me the person I was. I wish I knew where she was now — I'd like to thank her for making the earliest adolescent years less awful." —Caircair Hendrix, Facebook

    25. Following in her footsteps:

    "The AP Psychology teacher in my junior year totally changed my life. She is the first teacher I opened up to about my life, my future major and career, and a bunch of things I don’t have the confidence to tell my parents. She inspired me to become a teacher, even though both of us are aware of the changing expectations toward the teacher. Despite being in her 70s already, she is always lively and youthful like her students. This fall I’m going to attend the college she went to 50 years ago, studying psychology like she did." —nguyensongminhn

    26. A teacher who took the time to have the most important conversation:

    "My high school theater teacher got me through some of the roughest years of my life. I struggle with depression and anxiety and my senior year was a particularly rough time for me. I was struggling to figure out what to do with my life post high school and no one (friends and family included) seemed to understand my anxieties over whether or not to attend college. One fateful day, he pulled me into his office, excused me from my other classes, and talked me through one of the toughest conversations I’ve ever had. Three years later I’ve travelled to 14 countries, I live on my own, and am working to build my own business — all without a single college course. And all thanks to him!" —calikelsi

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