It has been oft said that we are the sum total of our experiences. This idea revolves around the notion that every single interaction had, every single novel read, every single heartbreak experienced, and even every single cup of coffee consumed, make us the beings that we are in this very instance. Every moment, every second, adds to the sum total of our lives. I am an avid believer in this theory, and I often make time to sit and ponder on the experiences, and more notably the people, who have made me who I am. This past week, while I was reflecting on my current position at eighteen years of life, I realized that Teacher Appreciation Week was upon us. In that moment, I was given the reminder that I would not be half the person I am today without the support and guidance of the brilliant educators I have been grateful enough to know. I soon learned that 87% of people wish they had told their best teachers how much they valued them. See, Teacher Impact Statistics. As I don’t like to live my life with regrets, I decided to share a few stories from my time with the teachers who made me who I am today. I hope these moments can remind you, as an educator, that what you do matters to students worldwide. What you do matters, to me. Thank you, from a soon to be graduated high school senior, for changing my life.
The first educator I would like to acknowledge is my first and second grade gifted class instructor, who also acted as my third-grade teacher. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from her class. In the years spent with her guidance, we researched foreign locations, conducted science labs in the garden, created photo collages reflecting our life experience, and my most favorite- held a science fair (which my team won!). This class taught me, among other things, that intellect was power, and that collaboration was a necessity. At such a young age, I learned that knowledge was the most important possession one could have, and that it could actually be tons of fun to obtain! I also learned that it’s imperative that I formulate my own opinions and cultivate my own destiny. This educator will forever hold a special place in my heart, reminding me that without our teachers we are nothing.
The next educator deserving of praise is my middle school drama teacher. This teacher, and I’m not exaggerating at all when I make this claim, literally saved my life. As unfortunately many middle schoolers do, I fell into a depressive state when beginning this new phase of my life. My childhood friends were no longer there, toxicity was present in every new relationship, and I was facing additional familial issues. To put it simply, I could not see the purpose in my own existence. So, initially under the goal of spending less time at home, I auditioned for the school play. As my acting was horrid, I was not in the cast, but I was invited to work backstage. I immediately fell in love with theatre. Every single person involved with the process had a specific purpose. Every single role, no matter how small, was crucial to the show being a success. This educator put in additional hours, as so many teachers do, simply for the hope that we would all enjoy the experience. He helped me discover my purpose, and in doing so quite honestly saved my life. I will never be able to repay this educator for the influence he has had on my life.
Now that it’s known that I love theatre, it must come as no surprise that the next teacher on my list is my high school drama teacher. While middle school taught me to adore performing, high school taught me to excel at my craft. My high school director is of a professional caliber, and I am so grateful that he was one of the educators in the sum total of my life. He accepted nothing less than excellent, but always reassured us with a group hug and the promise of “No matter what, I’m always gonna love ya.” He presented me with multiple performance opportunities, leadership tasks, and was always there to lend a helping hand, such as writing my university recommendation letters. This program, led by a brilliant educator, inspired me to be bold, passionate, and a forceful leader. My high school drama productions will forever be my most cherished experiences, as they allowed me to become the person writing to you today.
Another one of the most influential educators is my AP Psychology and AP World History Teacher. I am so grateful to have had this wonderful educator for two years of my high school experience. In World History, we would spend hours drinking coffee and discussing the failings of civilization throughout history. We debated, laughed, made meaningful work, and, arguably most importantly, learned that history repeats itself. We took knowledge from the past and applied it to the present, learning that our intellect could help ensure that future history was brighter. This course felt like a university honors level class which I was lucky enough to participate in. Additionally, in Psychology, we would discuss for hours on end the inner workings of the human mind and what causes people to act the way they do. She made the class intellectually stimulating yet fun, despite our hefty textbook. The studying was intense, but the payoff was worth it. As I headed into my senior year, she was also so adamant about helping me with the college admission process, recommending me to scholarship opportunities and continually asking if I needed anything from her. I believe her dedication and brilliantly written recommendation letters to be one of the reasons I had so many universities to decide between. This educator is most linked to my intellectual growth and stimulation, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I could continue for days on end discussing my favorite teachers, but I feel as if I must conclude with one of the most impeccable educators I have had the fortune of knowing, my high-school IB English Year I Teacher. There are very few instances in life when we recognize, in the moment, just how spectacular something, or someone, is. In my junior year of high school, I had that experience in this class. My teacher instructed us all, in the first week of class, to get up out of our seats. We were made to take our poetry into the hallway and walk aimlessly around the building while reading this poem. She told us to take note of any line that took us by surprise or made us have some physical response, such as a quickening in pace or halting completely. Later that year, in a similar experience, on a particularly sunny day, we were told to leave our seats, grab a blanket, take our novel, and go outside. We discussed and read beautiful literature while sunbathing in the grassy fields of the schoolyard. In both of these instances, I recognized just what an exquisite teacher I had. This class allowed me to appreciate literature in a way I never had before. Every novel we read that year was translated into English from a different language, and we discussed the implications that the native language and culture had on the literature. This course made me broaden my world view and realize that there is a stark commonality between all human beings. I will always cherish the memories crafted by this educator and think of them often.
98% of people believe that a great teacher can change the course of a student’s life (Teacher Impact Statistics). I could not agree more with this statistic, and I am so honored to have been encouraged and loved by so many brilliant educators. If it were not for the teachers mentioned in this article, along with many others, I would not be the person I am today. The teachers listed here have made me, and I am so grateful for the work they do. To every educator reading this, thank you for all that you do. You change the lives of your students, even if you don’t realize it.