We asked our friends to tell us about the teachers who tranformed their lives in a positive way.
Here's what they shared:
"I met Paula in my French class freshman year of high school and, within the first 20 minutes of her class, I knew one thing for sure: I wasn't going to learn any French that year (unless bonjour counts). My classmates and I were more captivated in learning about her magnificent life, which I then learned more about for years to come.
"Paula was more than a teacher. She was a daredevil, a rebel, a perpetual student, roller skater, knitter, comedian, traveler, skydiver, linguist, and artist. She was like this cartoon character that danced around the classroom in rainbow boots and laughed at the idea of rules and authority. I once asked her to write in my assignment pad because I was late for my next class and, without any inhibitions, she signed it 'I have held this student captive against her will, please accept her to your class late as I now set her free.'
"For years to come, Paula remained my best friend, lifetime inspiration, and favorite comedian. When I first met Paula I was struggling with depression, and the light of her personality motivated me to live vibrantly. Her 40-minute class each week was the best medication I could have ever received. Paula passed away this year and I was able to spend her last few weeks caring for her and was by her side when she passed. Paula will forever remain my greatest inspiration, my best friend, and favorite teacher."
"My second-grade teacher is the reason why I go by Mandy. She went around asking us to introduce ourselves and asked if we had a nickname. I said, 'My name is Amanda,' and she asked, 'Do you like to go by Mandy?' and it sounded so cool to me I said yes. And that's how I stopped being basic Amanda."
"Laura Partney. She was my music teacher from kindergarten through eighth grade. She had an insane collection of original Broadway cast vinyl, and she basically let me choose the musical every year. She'd also let me come to her room after school and blast The Wiz or The Boy Friend or whatever old show I was into at the time, unsupervised.
"I helped her with her website in, like, seventh grade, and she took me out for ice cream in the middle of the day. Obviously, my classmates thought that was SUPER WEIRD and that I was a big WEIRDO, but if it weren't for my relationship with Mrs. Partney — a seemingly strange one to the kids who didn't get it — I wouldn't be this incredibly comfortable with being a weirdo today."
"I went to a middle school in the suburbs for one year in second grade. I left the school at the end of the year and never stayed in touch with anyone there really.
"When I was 24, I went to a wedding where I didn't know the bride or groom very well. I had just graduated with a degree in English. When I got to the wedding, I realized that the bride's mother happened to be my second-grade teacher! Not only did she remember my name, but she immediately asked, 'Are you still writing?!'"
—Anne Louise K.
"One of my very first college courses was HUM 101: Humanities Through the Arts. It was an 80- or 100-person class — just huge — and it was led by Dr. Czynski (pronounced chin-ski). By the end of the first month, he had memorized every student's name, all of us — even mine, which really touched me, because I hardly spoke at all. I listened, but I never actively participated.
"A couple years after that class, I bumped into Dr. Czynski in the hallway, and he remembered me. He still knew my name. It really moved me — the thought that I could be memorable to anyone out of such a large class from a previous semester. It was a powerful thing, to be recognized by name."
"Senior year of high school I took Statistics with Mr. Larcom. He's a war vet with one leg, and he's the coolest. Statistics is a really dry subject, and I can't say that he made it any less dry, but he's got a great attitude, and it could have been way worse.
"Anyway, he knew I liked to write, and he got ahold of one of my creative writing stories from my English teacher. This is going to sound like a humblebrag, and I apologize in advance, BUT, when it came time to study for the final, he kept me after class, told me I didn't have to take the final because of my StELLaR performance on tests throughout the year, and handed me his favorite book by China Meiville. He said that my creative writing story reminded him of it, and that he knew I'd enjoy it.
"He recognized that math wasn't something I was passionate about in the slightest and actively encouraged my growth in an area I was passionate about. Which was really cool of him, because, I don't know about you guys, but I was a TURD in high school."
"When I was a freshman, I presented a short film to my class that I had worked very hard on and felt extremely passionate about. I thought the storytelling game was #strong and impactful, and so did my classmates, but my professor disagreed with me.
"I argued my point for as long as I could until my professor stopped me and told me that my work should speak for itself. Since that day, her wise words have helped me understand the importance of achieving clarity and coherence in everything that I do. Thanks, Joanne!"
"Mrs. Willcutt was gruff and strict, but she was the best storyteller I've ever heard, and she really loved teaching. She was passionate about English and about theater, and it's definitely not a coincidence that those were my major-minor in college.
"Even after I graduated and went on to a public high school, I would go back and visit Mrs. Willcutt about once a year. When I saw her after my sophomore year of college, which had been a great year following a not-so-great freshman year, she looked at me and said, 'You've had a good year.' She always seemed to know what was going on with me.
"She died last summer, and I went to her funeral in Gloucester, Massachusetts. A lot of my old classmates were there. She had a huge impact on all of us, and I still feel as if she helped shape part of who I am, even now that I'm almost 30."
"My eighth-grade science teacher was super metal and had to shave his weird, long, metal beard when he started teaching. Anyway, he told my mother once not to worry about me dyeing my hair pink and listening to punk music during a teacher's conference. She was genuinely worried, and he told her that I was a good kid and that he listened to metal growing up and turned out fine. He saved me a lot of flak with my parents to be honest."
"Michelle Shue — or Mrs. Shue, as I'm still inclined to call her — was my English teacher freshman year of high school in addition to my cheerleading coach all four years of high school. I was in her first class of students, and from the moment she started — which I now realize was when she was just 23 or 24 — she commanded respect from everyone around her.
"She was a force to be reckoned with, not only to students, but also to other teachers and the administration. She instituted new rules for cheerleading: She made us run a mile and do 50 pushups and 50 crunches before every practice. She pushed us hard, and people didn't always like her, but she showed me at an impressionable time what it meant not only to be a strong woman, but a strong person."
"I was a very nonathletic child. I played field sports because my friends did, but I hated them and wasn't good at them. When I started high school, though, my parents said I needed to join a sports team. The only ones that didn't cut me were cross country and track and field, so I very, very reluctantly joined cross country in the fall and track in the winter.
"The coach, Mr. Egan — also a PE teacher — was very, very tough on the kids he actually saw potential in. He knew I wasn't necessarily a natural athlete, but he recognized I was a hard worker, so he pushed me. I cried a lot of days after practice and before a lot of meets from nerves. But he never said, 'OK, Tory, you can sit this one out.' If he put me in a race, I was expected to run it. And with each one, I felt prouder and stronger. His encouragement and steady confidence in my abilities kept me going. And he favored his 'trackies' big time during PE class, so that made me feel valued and special in a class I usually dreaded.
"I ended up running 12 seasons of cross country and track. And now I run almost every day and race...FOR FUN! I owe it all to Mr. Egan."
"When I was 7, my parents told me we were leaving Israel to relocate for my dad's job. I had six months to prepare before the move to the U.S., which meant six months of English lessons. Hoping that not learning English meant I got to stay in Israel, I spent the majority of those lessons breaking my pencil tip and getting up to sharpen it. By the time my tutor switched me to erasable pens, it was time to move, and the only words I'd learned were cognates.
"In America, I was placed in a Hebrew day school, in a class taught by a bilingual teacher, Ms. Knierim. Ms. Knierim was patient with me, giving the class instructions and then taking the time to make sure I understood. She informed me when the cool kids told me the wrong definitions for certain words. And she ate lunch with me before I picked up enough English and confidence to sit with the nice kids.
"I know this story sounds sad, but I actually look back at it fondly. I'm not sure I would be able to do that if it wasn't for Ms. Knierim."
"In college, I had the greatest professor of all time. I bombarded my way into his office one day my sophomore year after he ignored my email a few times. I was looking for a department head to fund an initiative of mine. At the time, I had my back up against the wall and still had faith in my ideas. Till this day, he laughs about me giving him no choice but to say yes. He later became my mentor throughout college, and I have a ton of cool stories about the cool events and trouble we got into."