Reading. Writing. Arithmetic.
The three R’s, as they say, are widely considered to be the foundation of educational learning. Grade after grade we're taught how to pronounce syllables, string sentences together and calculate numbers. All of which are important life skills.
But what we learn about life as children, and even adults, isn’t always scribbled on a chalkboard or found chapters deep in a textbook. Rather, it comes from the wisdom of the men and women standing at the head of the classroom.
For many teachers, their curriculum goes beyond the basics of English, science and math. They teach us that we’re special, we’re important and that we can do anything and be anything in this world. We see them as our mentors, motivators and even our friends.
To celebrate National Teacher Day (May 8) and Teacher Appreciation Week (May 7-11), these Zapponians share with us the teachers who’ve made a difference in their lives.
Join us and #ThankATeacher in the comments below!
"My favorite teacher was Mr. Knoernschild, who taught seventh-grade history. He was a major influence in my life because he embraced students to seek both knowledge and follow their passion. His was surfing. He put surfing trips together where he taught us how to appreciate the ocean and ride the waves. Often as the lone female on these trips, he never made me feel like I could or should do less than the boys. He actually encouraged my rogue spirit. In pursuit of his passion, Mr. K also imported surfboards from Australia and licensed the U.S. rights to a (then) little company called Billabong, which he grew into a huge brand, and ultimately also founded Hurley. The rest, as they say, is legend."
Jr. Community Event Planner
"My favorite teacher was my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Robertson. I went to a pretty rough middle school, and she took the time out of her day to know and understand each of the students. Getting to know us meant that she knew which ones of us who had absent parents, hadn’t eaten or didn’t have basic items like a jacket. I saw her spend her own money to make sure we had what we needed. For me, she spent a lot of time talking to my mom about being more present in my life. If I could tell her anything it would be how much I appreciated her kindness to me, as well as other kids in similar situations. I use pieces of the advice she gave my mom and apply it in my own parenting."
Experimental Brand Marketer
"My three years of middle school math with Mr. Stedman was the absolute best. He terrified me at first. I thought he hated everyone. (Justifiable, since we were obnoxious middle schoolers.) We were doing math at a high school level in sixth grade — so it was HARD. But, he was so incredibly passionate about math and his students. He somehow took a class that most people hate and made it interesting by teaching us the philosophy and history behind it. He made it fun and, ultimately, my favorite subject. Plus, every holiday season we’d give back to underprivileged families as a class which taught me the value of putting others before myself; a value you can’t just get from math. Mr. Stedman, thank you for everything!"
"I’ve had many amazing and inspiring teachers in my life. Recently, I went back to school to further my music education. Almost every instructor and mentor I had the pleasure of learning from has taught me so much beyond music making. I truly can’t think of just one teacher that stands out because so many of them have made an incredible impression on myself and my career. Each one took the time to help me become a better musician and person by viewing the world in a creatively different way. Through patience, humor and their own passion for music, I’ve been inspired and pushed to go beyond my comfort zone. My deepest gratitude to each of these wonderful people. I know you will continue to inspire and motivate new students just like you did with me, and I love you all for it!"
"The most memorable and impactful teacher I had was Ms. Livingston. She taught guitar, piano, choir and swing choir in Anchorage, Alaska. At a young age, I was certain I was going to be a musician for life and played percussions/drums. Ms. Livingston challenged me to learn other instruments and become a balanced and educated musician. Not just to rely on raw talent, but to learn the universal language so I could collaborate with a larger group. She was always willing to help the students learn and would stay after hours while we practiced. She lived and breathed teaching and looking back I notice how much extra time she put into us."
"Ms. Lestelle was my ninth-grade science teacher. She reminds me of Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus,” thanks to her adventurous spirit. Science was already one of my favorite subjects, but she always made time to make the subject matter fun and engaging. Ms. Lestelle even wrote a children’s book, “Science Mouse” that tells the story of a mouse that lived in a science classroom and all the fun things he learned. A few years ago, Ms. Lestelle came to the restaurant where I’d worked and we reminisced, talked about her recent travels to Rapa Nui, Patagonia, Atacama Desert and the Tropic of Capricorn, and exchanged contact information. To this day I continue to write Ms. Lestelle to see how she’s doing and where she’s headed next."
"One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Barbara Baker, in fifth grade. She was also my home economics teacher in eighth grade. She ruled her classroom with an iron fist, and she didn't take crap from anyone, but she loved her students. She was the one that informed my parents that I needed glasses. She also gave us English sentences to diagram, which meant I had to use my Dad's college level books to figure them out. Years after school, I used to visit her to say hi and to thank her. I learned to work hard and to take nothing for granted. Thank you, Mrs. Baker, you are truly missed."
Asst. Marketing Coordinator
"Mrs. Ford was my favorite teacher from second grade. Besides teaching us math and reading comprehension, she taught us something that is much more valuable — manners. I remember when she’d correct us when we said 'Yeah' or 'Can I..?' The right way was 'Yes, ma’am' and 'May I…?' This was no exception for Mrs. Ford as she did her best to shape us into better little human beings through etiquette. It’s easy to forget as I get older and work in a fast-paced environment, but often I can still hear her voice reminding me before I speak. This characteristic is one of the best things I learned in life. Wherever you are, thank you, Mrs. Ford!"
"Ms. M, my women’s studies professor in college, had the biggest impact on me. She was not easy, nor was her class enjoyable, but that was the value in her approach to teaching. She did not follow textbooks; instead, she questioned us about what was happening in the world and how we felt about it. To her, critical thinking and intellectual learning were more important than any assignment or test. She valued her students’ ability to formulate and voice their own opinions. Ms. M’s non-traditional approach to teaching gave me the ability to learn and grow, unlike any other college course I took. If I saw her today, I’d thank her for this one piece information she told me 15+ years ago: 'Always know where your information is coming from!'"
"I’m fortunate to be inspired by two teachers, both as a kid and as an adult! The first is Mr. Feltl, who taught fourth-grade. The curriculum he created came second to the compassion he showed towards all of his students. He was understanding, easy to talk to and always made himself available, regardless of how big or small our 'problems' were as 9 and 10-year-olds. The second is Ms. Gaby, my wife, who teaches pre-kindergarten. The care and attention she gives her students is out of this world. Every day she goes the extra mile so her students can have a fun and interactive place to socially and emotionally learn and develop. She’ll often tell her kids “kiss your brain!” when they have a learning breakthrough. I’m fortunate to know both of these outstanding teachers!"