Students Share Stories of How a Teacher Changed Their Life Forever

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Usually, when we think about teachers, we think about the people who gave us hell in school and tried to force boring work (that we were never going to use in the real world) down our throats. Of course, there were the cool science teachers that let you blow stuff up, the literature teacher who made the class laugh with their Shakespeare imitations and the gym teacher who allowed you to have at it on the dodgeball court. But the general consensus is that most teachers suck.

The students in this article have an entirely different view of the people who were meant to instruct them. From paying their college tuition to buying Christmas gifts for an entire family, these teachers have gone above and beyond, all for the sake of love and education. Here are the teachers who changed their students’ lives.

45. Envelope of Love

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I grew up pretty poor in a lousy household. Everything came second to my parent’s addictions, including eating. Meaning, going to school for days without food. This made studying extremely hard and my academics suffered. I played what sports when I could, but my performance was hampered by lack of sleep and energy. Still, to this day, without sports, I would have been a dropout.

In my grade 11 year, I started to get called down to the office around 11 am almost every day. When I got there, the secretary would say “Hey, your mom called and said you forgot your lunch and dropped some money off” and they would hand me $5 or a few dollars in an envelope. Other days they’d say “Your mom dropped your lunch of,” and hand me a bagged lunch. I knew these were not from my mom. She didn’t drive. Still, I happily pretended that they were from her. On the days that it truly made a difference, I could see it on the teachers’ faces. In their eyes, it proved what I had suspected, that my lunch was coming from them. You can’t fake this type of kindness. Wow at 37, this is still really emotional.

 

44. Wish Granted!

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I moved to a new school in the middle of the 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 had apparently 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.

 

43. She’s Supportive and Generous

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My senior year of high school, my parents told me that they couldn’t afford to send me to college. My family had always struggled with money and couldn’t afford the other half of the tuition. Being the emotional teenager I was, I cried myself to sleep that night.

I looked awful the next day, with these super red puffy eyes. I was at my locker after school when my teacher came over, dropped two starbursts on top of my locker, and said “Hey, it’s gonna be siokay kid. I promise.” When she knew what my problem was, she voluntarily paid the other half of the tuition out of her pocket. I’m a successful young professional now, and I owe it to her.

 

42. She’s the Sweetest!

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I had a teacher who I’ve known since I was six years old. She always encouraged me to do what I loved, and I could always talk and be honest with her. She was there for me when my parents got divorced, and when I was deeply depressed. One time I ‘ran away’ from home after a fight with my mother, and she came looking for me after my mom had called her. When she found me, we talked about my life and how I was feeling.

She wasn’t just like this to me; she was amazing to all her students! She made us cake when my whole class had completed a math thing, and another cake when my classmate who wasn’t a big reader had finished a thick book. She was always calm and patient and rarely raised her voice. When I was 18, she came to my graduation party as well, and she helped me when I was applying for university.

 

41. He Gave Me a Place

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I was in the 5th grade and Mr. Taguchi was the first to take time and talk to me and help me with homework. He figured out that the reason I wouldn’t or couldn’t do my homework was because I didn’t really have a space to work and no one to help me.

Not that I didn’t have a home or anything, but my parents worked a lot and my brothers were more concerned with partying and having their friends over. I rarely had support or at the bare minimum a place I could study in peace. He started staying late after school just to give me a place to do my homework. It helped immensely.

 

40. She Threatened To Quit

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The teacher who made the biggest difference in my life did something that I didn’t even know about until I was an adult. Mrs. Smith was my 1st-grade teacher. I was a wild child; just a year earlier diagnosed with ADHD. So apparently during reading lessons, I would get bored and become disruptive to the class.

After only two weeks of the school year, the school wanted to expel me for my disruptiveness. Mrs. Smith wouldn’t allow it; she said it was too soon and they needed to give me a chance. I guess they pressed the issue and when they wouldn’t give up, she threatened to quit. Saying that if I had to go, then she did as well because she would not give up on a child that quickly. In the end, I got to stay and she learned how to better work with my own learning style. It’s something I will hold onto for the rest of my life.

 

39. A Good Soul in this Cruel World

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I was a kid with ADHD and everyone, even teachers were rude to me when I couldn’t control myself. I was a good and kind kid; everybody in my school called me a genius because I understood things faster than anyone else, but I was always sad because I couldn’t be myself without everyone judging me. I just had this problem where I couldn’t stand in one place. I couldn’t shut up; I just had to keep on doing something; I kept running in class for no reason.

Then one day, a really nice teacher approached me with kindness. Instead of shouting or anything, she managed to calm me down by consistently giving me small rewards and telling me how good I was with my progress; she made me feel good and special, instead of annoying and excluded. No one in my life managed to do that; some teachers managed to calm me down to some extent, but none like her. I know that if it weren’t for her, I would probably ditch school out of disappointment. She showed that I should be happy about being special and defended me when everyone was cruel to me. 

 

38. Motivates to Push Beyond Limits

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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.

 

37. Saved Not Just My Life, but Also My Mother’s

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I was in high school, going through some rough family issues at home. My mother was verging on suicidal, and I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I had no support from anyone, nobody to talk to for advice or to help me. I went into one of my teacher’s offices to discuss an essay I had to write for his class. During that time, he noticed something off with me, and my mood. He asked me what the matter was, and I instantly broke down, spilling my guts.

I ended up telling my French teacher as well, who was always very kind. The two of them were good friends, so they both did what they could to help me, without crossing any personal boundaries or overstepping them. They gave me their numbers, in case I needed to talk to anyone, helped me find help hotlines, directed me towards links and articles with suggestions on how to help and deal with someone who was experiencing what my mother was going through. I can honestly say, without them, my life would be much different, and probably for the worse. Just the caring and understanding each of them exhibited towards me during my time of need was life-changing.

 

36. Great Life Coach

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Coach Martin was one of the most carefree teachers I have ever had the privilege of meeting. He was an old man who was set in his ways. He would tell us about his mornings of parking lot duty and they were always amazing. He’d go out there with a baseball bat and stand far enough away from the roads and whatnot and stand there and act a fool. Or he’d go out there with a sign or whatever and twirl it around. I will never forget what his words were on that subject. “If I can make at least one person smile, then what do I care? I achieved what I was aiming for. Why should I care that some people think I’m crazy? I know my intentions and that’s all the matters.”

Every day in his class had some sort of lesson that could be applied to everyday life. The old man just did not care what others thought about him, and he taught us, or at least me, that we shouldn’t care either, because people are gonna judge you no matter what you do, so do what you want. He’s one of the few teachers I’m proud to have had. Not only was he a great teacher, but he was a great life coach. He always gave the best advice.

 

35. He Saved My Life

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When I was in the 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.  I rambled on 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.

 

34. Always Got My Back

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I was in 4th grade and had just moved across the country from Indiana to upstate NY. It was the hardest school transition I had ever been through. Most of the kids were terrible and the only thing I got to look forward to was my teacher. She was amazing. She taught me what kids did around here and how the way I acted was different and that they wouldn’t understand some things I would say or do. She was there for me when my father was shot and in a coma for a year. She got me and my older sister into a summer camp for free.

Mind you, this camp cost around $400 per child. We were at a rough time at our house and she pulled some strings for me. This teacher became one of the best people in my life and even now, being married with children of my own, I still think about how much easier she made my childhood.

 

33. The Smile I Needed

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When I was five years old, I found my sister in the kitchen lifeless, and I was mentally traumatized. Daily, I would have flashbacks of my sister screaming for help, and I could not look into a mirror because I would see the scene, or an image of her face. A few weeks later, my mother and I relocated to a different town, and I started attending kindergarten. My teacher’s name was Ms. Everett. I’m not sure why, but I had this strong connection with this teacher. There were many days when I would randomly have a flashback, and weep while I was in class. Ms. Everett would always hold me, and rock me until I was able to smile again.

As the school year was ending, I was afraid to go to the first grade because I knew Ms. Everett would no longer be my teacher. I voiced this to Ms. Everett every day, and somehow, on my first day of 1st grade, there she was, smiling from ear to ear. I am forever grateful for her. Her comforting smile and healing words helped me through the darkest time of my life. Thank you so much, Ms. Everett.

 

32. My Father Figure

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When I was in high school, my dad was deployed. I had a history teacher who really stepped up in my life and was the stable male figure that I needed. I always ended up talking to him every day 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 to recognize a need in myself for stability because of him. He did more for me than any teacher I have ever had.

 

31. She Encouraged Me

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In the fifth grade, I had no friends in my class for the first time and social anxiety to go with it. I really liked writing and I wrote many mini-novels which I brought in the classroom to work on when I got bored. I’d show them to my teacher, and she was really encouraging of my writing. I became so close to her throughout the year. She hugged me when the last day of school ended and she said she hoped to see my books published in the future. I cried because she wasn’t returning to school next year.

I found her on Facebook half a year ago and I decided to message her, but she hasn’t messaged back yet. I don’t think she remembers me, but I thanked her for being such a positive influence anyway. I’ve had a lot of nice teachers, but her presence in my life is something I will cherish forever.

 

30. The Love-rarian

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From the time that I was 13 till I finished school at 17, the librarian (and her successors…all teacher librarians) let me stay in the school library until 5 pm every school day. She even came in at 7:30 am just to open the library for those of us who were already at school when she did not need to be there till 8:15 am.

What I never told her was that if it weren’t for her, I would have been sitting outside my front door till 6 pm, in all types of weather. If it wasn’t for her, I might not have lived through my teens. She saved my life, and to this day she doesn’t know it. I’m studying to be a librarian because of her.

 

29. The Rub of Love

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My 4th and 5th-grade teacher in California (same guy) was amazing. He was legally deaf, but he taught me so much about life and being a man. He was kind and thoughtful and he used to rub his students’ backs every now and again. He did this because he said one time, a student of his had been beaten horribly at home, and after having bumped into him he saw the poor kid wince in excruciating pain. From then on, the teacher would occasionally rub a student’s back to ensure they were OK.

He taught me how to speed read, he showed me how to work on and use computers, he nurtured my every learning desire. I left his class, and California in 1990, and when I returned seven years later to visit, he recognized me simply by hearing my voice (remember, he is legally deaf). He was an amazing example of a real teacher!

 

28. Point Of Reference

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I had this teacher in high school. He loved his job and he loved us, his last classroom. We spent four years together, and I can still remember the first day of school six years ago. I feel like it was just yesterday when he said: “From now, I’ll be your point of reference.”

I was parents’ when I got to know he had cancer and now he suffers from amnesia. He’s a strong man, always resolute in every decision he makes; you know, he’s the kind of man who treats everyone equally, without exceptions. He helped me become who I am today and I’m very thankful to him.

 

27. Small Gesture, Big Impact

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My junior year of high school was a very hard year for me. I was reeling from an assault from a classmate, and was numbing the pain I was in with different medications, and getting through every day was very difficult. I was walking a very thin ledge of being suicidal and had finally decided that yes, I would do it; it was time.

I spent most of that day crying, but for different reasons. You know, the silent tears that don’t draw attention and that everyone kind of just ignores. Mr. Torrence was passing out our worksheet for the class period and on mine, was a sticky note. All that was on the sticky note was a smiley face. I stopped crying for a little bit and did my worksheet quietly. At the end of class, my teacher asked me to hang back, and he gave me a big hug and told me that whatever was going on, it was going to be okay. I cried the rest of the day, but because I was so touched and felt like someone actually cared, that my pain was visible and validated. It was a very small gesture, but it made such a huge impact that I didn’t kill myself that weekend. Mr. Torrence genuinely cares about his students. I don’t think he even knows that he saved my life, but I owe him big time.

 

26. “But You Already Are A Singer”

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My vocal teacher pretty much made me who I am today. I told him once I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. He paid so much individual attention to me during class, came in at 5 am to help me once and even stayed until 6 pm to help me with homework from another class. On a more personal level, he would make sure to talk to me about my life almost every day when I got there early for class. He was the first person I told about my crush on someone of the same gender, and I was the first student he told about his husband. He gave me the courage to ask my now girlfriend out. We were super tight.

In eighth grade, he chose me for the all-school solo for the biggest concert of the year. That was the first time I cried for joy in my whole life. The end of that year, I cried when I had to leave to go to high school. I told him it was my life’s goal to be a singer and I was going to say to him if I ever made it, I’d give him credit, but he interrupted me with one of the sweetest, most-life changing things I’d ever heard. “But you already are a singer.” That was the second time in my life I cried for joy. Mr. Roberts, you are an angel that walks among men and you don’t even know it. I miss you.

 

25. Made Me Believe in Myself

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My math teacher encouraged me to retake my math exams and work hard after failing my second college year; I had decided that I would drop out and work in a supermarket. His encouragement made me believe in myself and work incredibly hard for once. I am now waiting for my results to get into a math degree at university, and I’m hoping to get an A* after getting E’s and D’s before.

My parents have always told me to try my best and have given me advice in these kinds of situations, but it’s different when you’re told you can accomplish something by someone who doesn’t have to say it to you. He took me aside and spoke to me about it and told me he knew I was capable of getting a strong grade. He was also a fantastic teacher who tried very hard at his job, and the fact he let me re-enroll into the second year classes was something that rarely happens at my college, so I felt a bit like I owed him for his support.

 

24. A Little Push of Motivation

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I had never really considered myself to be good at sports, but one time in the 8th grade, my PE teacher said I did really well at sprinting. This had motivated me to run, a lot. And ever since that day I have trained my endurance.

By the final year of high school, I outran every student. It made me feel pretty great. It has been about eight years since the teacher has said those words to me, but to this day I am thankful that he did. It was that little push of motivation I really needed!

 

23. He Made School a Fun Experience

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A microbiology lab professor has made me want to be as happy, funny, and as good a person as him. Despite his age, he has the heart of a child and genuinely made the class laugh every day. From silly things in his life, to threatening to smother us in our sleep (jokingly) if we didn’t do things correctly, he always made the idea of education seem like a fun experience.

During one of my lab classes one semester, he turned off the lights. I looked up from my counter-space and Petri dishes to see him dressed in a trilby and trench coat fake-drinking from a flask. Cliche noir crime drama music began playing in the background. He then began monologuing, pacing the room, and peering through the light rays beaming through the blinds on the side of the lab. I felt like I was suddenly in a movie. He did it with such suave that I could tell he did this every semester. But it was one of the memorable moments that made me aspire to have as much fun in life as him. There were so many ways that this class could have been like any other class, but he made it something to look forward to each day.

 

22. Library Bond

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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 books, 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 who allowed 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.

 

21. A Teacher’s Care Visit

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One day when I was in kindergarten. I was extra fidgety in my seat and my teacher Mrs. Powell called me to her desk to talk. She discovered I had a large burn on my left arm and asked me about it. I revealed my mother did it and she gave me a hug and sent me to the nurse’s office.

I was taken into foster care later that week and stayed for about six months and Mrs. Powell came and visited me. I know this isn’t the typical teacher duties/responsibilities but going above and beyond what was asked of her brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. Mrs. Powell definitely made a difference in my life.

 

20. Helped Me Rebuild My Confidence

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My teacher from when I was nine to about 13 helped me by encouraging me to be myself. He saw I was dramatic, eccentric and loved acting and art. He was an art teacher but also our class-teacher. He always encouraged me to take part in plays and the choir and helped me become a better painter.

He noticed my pain from my parents’ divorce, health issues and from being bullied. He put an end to the bullying and helped me rebuild my confidence. I really haven’t thought about him for a while and just now realized how much he truly helped me. It’s hard to put into words almost five years of daily interaction.

 

19. A Tear Of Encouragement

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My interest in science and education, in general, changed when I was in the eleventh grade (junior year). I was a happy-go-lucky kid with absolutely no interest in my studies combined with depression and a bad choice of friends. During one of the parent-teacher meetings, my chemistry teacher almost starts crying saying that he felt defeated as a teacher because he just couldn’t get me to even try. He also said that if I put in minimum effort, I could ace the subjects.

That affected me a lot and completely changed my life, because if the teacher cared so much, I should at least try. I did and have been fascinated by everything science since that day. I took up Engineering in college and I’m now going to do my Masters.

 

18. A Lifetime Connection

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Mary Dillon, my third-grade teacher, was tough, loving, and never gave up on any of her students and 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 have 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.

 

17. Wonders And Fun In Science

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I had a high school science teacher who was so excited about his subject that he could barely stand still when he was talking about it. I have a very clear memory of him literally running at top speed around the perimeter of the classroom while he was explaining the motion of electrons. He instilled in me a lifelong sense that science could be full of excitement, wonder, and fun.

This same teacher also led the local 4-H Challenge Club, so not only did he teach me the joy of science, but he also taught me rock climbing, rappelling, and outdoor survival skills! I wish all kids could have at least one teacher like my science teacher. I can’t help but think that it would make the world a better place.

 

16. That I Belong and Can Shine Like a Star

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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 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.

Now, nine years later, I cannot 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.

 

15. When Someone Deeply Listens, We Heal

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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.

 

14. Inspirational Teacher

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Mr. Morris, my high school physics teacher, was extremely passionate about physics and got me excited about it too, but made a difference outside of the content area. I was in his class my junior year and he was the reason I made it through my senior year. Even though I wasn’t in his class anymore, he always made time for me and listened and helped me see my potential as a physicist and as a person. I was going through a lot with my health, and he always was willing to listen and give advice (even though his own daughter was in and out of the same hospital I was, and she was a lot sicker).

Every single day ended with him reminding me to keep smiling. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have graduated without him. And as I’m getting ready to begin my own career as a physics teacher this fall, I hope and pray that I can make a fraction of the difference in my kids’ lives that he made in mine.

 

13. That We Are All Worthy

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My high school theater teacher had one of the biggest impacts on my life. 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!”

The new teacher 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 theater besides acting. She never made a single person feel unworthy of being in theater and treated everyone with respect, no matter how rude or insubordinate they were. She taught so much more than her subject; she taught respect, hard work, inclusion, and happiness.

 

12. Feeling Understood

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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 a happy birthday, liked 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.

 

11. A Simple Gesture Could Mean a Lot

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It’s just my dad and me, 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 me 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 student.

 

10. My Super-Math

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Freshman and sophomore year of high school, I was a punk and would not really care that much about school. I got decent grades; I always had a natural talent in sciences and mathematics, but could never be bothered to really apply myself. Then I meet a man, and he is my physics teacher. He is not only passionate about the subject which he teaches and loves, but would also talk about big philosophical ideas and his family and all the things that he cared for. He would often stay after class to talk to students with any problems or difficulties. He told me that he knew that I was a bright kid, but that I was distracted and didn’t apply myself. He said he would hate to see me turn out the wrong way.

One day walking down the hall, he asked me to come into his office at break time. When I came, he was sitting at his desk and asked me “Do you think math is a language or a way we know things?”. We sat in his office for the entire hour discussing mathematics and physics. This man turned a punk into the physics-loving nerd I am proud to be today. I not only respect him for that, but he is an extremely spiritual man who is dedicated to his family and bettering the lives of others.

 

9. Motivation is What We Need

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In my senior year, I was a peer helper for my debate teacher/coach. He would fund-raise 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.

 

8. For Making Me Feel Special

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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.

 

7. That I Deserve a Better Life

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Mr. Rekosh was my study hall teacher in my freshmen year in high school. I had an eating problem then and I was obsessed with my weight.

One day in study hall, I was talking about my weight to one of the other 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.

 

6. The Safest Place

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The past year, I had a history teacher, who we’ll call Mrs. L. I hadn’t ever had a teacher who was so supportive 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.

 

5. My Personal Listener

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Growing up, I was always dealing with family and personal issues. 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.

Then every 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 were more to say to him than thank you. He truly changed me.

4. She’s My Inspiration

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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 towards being a 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.

 

3. She Held Me

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My college professor, Ms. Crotty, helped me through the hardest time of my life. I was a theater 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.

 

2. That I Can Do Better

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When my science teacher gave me back my test in 8th grade, I told him I was so happy I got an 85 on the test. He picked me up by my collar, pinned me to the wall and said, “Do you know what mediocre means?”. I had no idea, so he gave me homework to look up the definition for mediocre. I did.

The next day, I went up to him and cited the definition. He held me by my collar (again), looked straight into my eyes and asked me “Do you want to be mediocre? Huh? You can do better than an eighty-five”. Since then, and because of my amazing teacher I always ask myself, “Do you want to be mediocre?”. People tell me I am too tough on myself sometimes, but I know that being mediocre just ain’t an option.

 

1. Guitar Hero

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I was a really weird, depressed kid in middle school. I was into metal, super hormonal and I liked to wear my emotions on my sleeve. My girlfriend at the time had dumped me so I decided it would be smart (what was I thinking?!) to tell her I couldn’t live without her and describe it in a bit more detail. Well, that’s not how it was intercepted.

Eventually, after learning that I played guitar and loved music, the school put me in touch with a newbie teacher who was great at the guitar. He would hang out with me, keep me occupied, show me new music; we’d go out to eat, he was showing me stuff on the guitar, teaching me how to use certain effects pedals, etc. I would eventually not only carry a more positive and kind attitude and a more accepting ear for music, but also the skills he taught me into my own metal bands in the future. I thank him for hanging out with the kid I was back then; the guy really changed my life.

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Marijean Grace

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