Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school?
"My third-grade teacher, Miss McFarland, made such a difference in my life. I was very, very shy and she decided to take a chance and give me the lead part in a class musical. Why me? Her confidence in me gave me the confidence I needed to succeed.
Sally Plourde, second-grade teacher at Prides Corner Elementary School, Westbrook, Maine
When I was in the eighth grade my math teacher, Mr Wilson, made me feel important and smart. Girls weren't supposed to be smart in math in the mid-sixties. I learned things in math that year I had never been introduced to before. He caused me to love math and I realize the importance of making sure each one of my students knows how important and smart they are and that they can achieve anything.
Faye Smith Gottlieb’s 11th-grade English class turned out to be the most mind-shaping, life-altering class I’ve ever taken. We read in Faye’s class—everything from Kafka’s Metamorphosis to Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince to Ignazio Silone’s Bread and Wine to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?. We never took tests. We always had discussions. The literature provided a platform for endless conversations, observations, and exchanges where we were constantly in touch with those values and experiences that shaped our world views. We were thinkers. That class shifted the lens through which I viewed life.
Vicki Whitaker, language arts and world history teacher at Rocinante High School, Farmington, New Mexico
Mrs. Baber was my sixth-grade teacher in 1971, the second year of desegregation at Lantrip Elementary school in downtown Houston. The culture was highly turbulent, and violence of some sort was common. One morning we were redirected from our classroom to the library. We later learned why. Our room had been vandalized. Mrs. Baber sat before us and explained that the perpetrators had [defiled] every desk [and] every book....She was so dismayed she wanted to quit teaching. But then she looked into each of our eyes as tears slid silently down her cheeks. She said when she’d thought of each of us, she knew she couldn’t leave—that she loved us and could not abandon us. By this time, we were all crying, too.
Ellen Wood, mathematics teacher, Aurora Central High School, Aurora, Colorado
The most influential educator in my life was my father. He was a head custodian for an elementary school in our home town. Almost every day I realize what a profound impression his work ethic and dedication had on me. At one point, he didn’t miss a single day of work for seven years. He also worked a split shift so that he and his crew could leave together knowing the school was ready for the next day.
Marty Meyer, head custodian, Fernan Elementary School, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
When I was an eighth-grader, Mrs. Cottongim, was always there to give me encouraging words, help with homework—even advise me on girls! I saw her daily and sought her advice just as often. After Mrs. Cottongim was diagnosed with breast cancer, she still worked as much as possible, even through chemotherapy. She beat the cancer, and continued to be an inspiration to me throughout high school. While in college, when I began to lose interest in my studies, I made a desperate call to Mrs. Cottongim to seek advice. She suggested I look at education as a career. Now I’m finishing up my third year as a teacher. I still talk to Mrs. Cottongim all the time, which is only natural. She’s my mom.
Wes Cottongim, sixth-grade teacher at Briarwood Elementary in Bowling Green, Kentucky