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10 Educators Who Went Above And Beyond For Their Students

They are the most important influence in a child's life. These ten teachers take that extra step to ensure their kids' futures are bright. Target recognizes the value of excellent teachers, which is why they are on track to give $1 billion to education by the end of 2015.

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1. The teacher who taught her students to overcome adversity by putting pen to paper.

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When assigned to teach low-performing high school students in Long Beach, CA, Gruwell decided to change the theme of her curriculum to tolerance. After encouraging her students to read new books and journal their experiences, Gruwell saw a drastic positive turnaround in her students. Gruwell authored the 1999 book, The Freedom Writers Diary, and later went on to start the Freedom Writers Foundation.

2. The choir teacher who took his choir and made them into an internet sensation.

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After becoming the full-time music teacher at PS22 in Staten Island, Gregg Breinberg wanted to give the kids an experience they'd never forget. Remembering that he sang "songs that [he] hated" in his school days, Mr. Breinberg started recording his kids singing famous pop hits. Today, the PS22 Chorus' YouTube channel has over 50 million views, and they've toured around the country with their amazing vocals. Check out their rendition of Katy Perry's "Roar" below:

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3. The innovator who's using design to teach high schoolers and change their communities.

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Emily Pilloton and her partner Matthew Miller were asked to come to rural Bertie County in North Carolina to help repair the troubling school district. There, they founded Studio H, a curriculum that brings design basics and innovative lessons to high schoolers. They are using these teaching tactics to help supply desktop computers and internet access for everyone in the community.

4. The teachers who gave up their salary in order to keep the school system going.

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After Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania told teachers there were no more funds to pay them, the teachers took a big risk and decided to continue working unpaid. Math and literacy teacher Sara Ferguson said, "The students don't have any contingency plan. They need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job."

5. The teacher who envisioned a place where children can teach themselves and each other.

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Educational researcher, Dr. Sugita Mitra's "Hole-in-the-Wall" experiments have revealed that in the absence of formal education, when motivated by a sense of wonder and collaboration, children can learn through self-instruction and peer-sharing. He won the 2013 TED Prize for his "School in the Cloud" concept — a building in India, designed to test a range of cloud-based approaches to self-directed learning.

6. The teacher who makes a difference in the classroom and at home.

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Not only does Jeffery Wright think outside the box when it comes to teaching physics in Louisville, KY ( i.e. having the kids break cinderblocks on his chest), but he's also an influential mentor for his kids, giving them advice with their toughest issues. In addition to being an amazing teacher, he's also an awesome father to his son who is diagnosed with Joubert syndrome and uses the lessons he learns from that experience to teach his students valuable things about life.

7. The teacher who inspired other educators to seek out their students' natural talents.

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Mieliwocki, a seventh-grade English teacher in Burbank, CA, was awarded the 2012 "National Teacher of the Year" title for her outstanding teaching methods. She gained recognition for her educational approach, identifying each child's native talents, to then tailor their education and set them on the path to success.

8. The teacher who motivated his students toward higher learning.

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Charbonneau, a high school science teacher in Washington State, was recognized for transforming Zillah High School into a place where nearly every student graduates with some college credit. Ninety percent of last year's graduating class went on to continue their education, either in college, apprenticeships, or the military. He was awarded the 2013 "National Teacher of the Year" title for his great accomplishments.

9. The teacher who saw the potential in youth, no matter their zip code.

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Canada is head of the Harlem Children's Zone, which supports children of all ages to break the cycle of poverty. He has dedicated his life to working with kids in poor neighborhoods, helping expand the HCZ to encompass more than 100 square blocks and serve around 10,000 children. In 2011, he was named one of TIME magazine's 100 most influential people. Canada and the Harlem Children's Zone were featured prominently in the renowned 2010 documentary, Waiting for Superman.

10. The teacher who gave students hope and a chance to give back to their community.

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After seeing the lack of opportunities in his neighborhood, South Bronx teacher Stephen Ritz decided to do something about it. He founded Green Box Machine, a nonprofit that uses agriculture garden plots to teach students science and technology basics while helping out the community around them. He and his students have produced 25,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx, and he's seen high levels of academic success from his students in the process.

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