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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Thank You Letters to Teachers

Thank You Letters to Teachers

Related Tags: School Leadership
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Sometimes we forget the impact that we have as teachers. Schools are busy places, and teachers are busy people, so it’s not surprising that sometimes we miss out on chances to stop and reflect upon the influence that we wield over the young people in our care. Often, it’s the little conversations, the easily-forgotten asides, the friendly smile or brief compliment that mean the most to young people – and while we might forget them by the time it comes to write the next report or plan the next lesson, those words can remain with a young person for a very long time, shaping their personality and their thoughts.

May is Teacher Appreciation Month. So, thank you to all the teachers out there. To show you how powerful you are, as individuals and as a profession, here are a collection of ‘Thank You’ letters written by students thanking the teacher who, in his or her inimitable way, changed their lives for the better.

Dear Sir,
I hated you when I first met you. I hated the fact that you made me stand up straight. I hated the way you made me wear my uniform right. I hated the way you made me speak correctly. Most of all, I hated the way that you wouldn’t accept my work unless it was the best I could do. And the best always seemed more effort than I was willing to put in.

We had lots of arguments, at the start. I remember being kept in at lunch a lot. And despite my yelling and threats – even tears once or twice – I remember you never lost your temper. You were always patient with me. You always took the time to listen to me, whenever I wanted to be heard.

I look back upon that time as so important in the development of the person that I am today. You taught me discipline. You taught me dignity. Much more than English, which was what you were supposedly teaching me, you taught me that I could achieve more than what I or other people thought that I was capable of. I could be a success, instead of a clown.

For that lesson, I owe you so much.

Thank you.
A student (Year 11).
---

To my teacher:
If I had not had you as my teacher in Year 7, my life would be incredibly different. I’m not saying it would be bad – but you opened my eyes to what I could be, what I could do, in a way that I’ve never thought possible. You took a kid from Penrith and made him want to see the world and beyond.

I still remember one lesson where you told us about your hopes for your future when you were our age. I think you were meant to be talking about science, but it changed, and kind of became a life study. You told us about your regrets, and your successes, and for some reason, it all resonated with me, and I started to realize that anything really is possible.

You have changed my whole aspect on my learning, I wouldn't be where I am today without you. Your encouragement and persistence in my junior years has taught me that I am who I am, and to get to the top, it’s all down to me. I am capable, but it will take hard work and lots of dedication.

Thank you,
Nick (Graduated).
---

Dear Friend:

An Inspirer. An Empower. An Engager. These three characteristics are just a short sample of the many you demonstrate with all of your students, including me, every single day.

Too often we progress through the ‘ropes of life,’ and do not invest the time to express our gratitude and authentic value for the support you so eagerly share for our growth, as not only students, but also as global citizens of society.

You make me feel authentically supported when you say, “Please let me know how I can be helpful” and genuinely mean it. Also, the excitement you express to co-learn with me rather than teach me, makes me feel like a partner in my learning experience, when it is so easy to feel like ‘a sponge that can only absorb.’ I know you have so much to share, but I love how you also openly articulate how much I have to share as well and how much you learn by engaging with me!

As an educator, your title can ensure a role of heightening my knowledge in academics. However, you see me not as one of the many students you have, but instead you value me for my uniqueness and strengths. You promote an environment where I feel like I am able to not only share my contribution, but also know it is actually considered and appreciated.

Thank you for being genuine. Thank you for seeing me as a partner in learning and sharing. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being one of the few great teachers out there. May you inspire others to achieve the greatness you have.

With gratitude,
Clement Coulston (Graduated)
---

Miss,

Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your time. Thank you for helping me with my homework. Thank you for setting me homework. Thank you for staying behind to help me, even when I know there are lots of other places you’d rather be. Thank you for keeping me company on camp when no one else was there. Thank you for not embarrassing me in front of my friends. Thank you for explaining things until I understand. Thank you for making me do my best. Thank you for being my teacher.

Sarah (Year 8).

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

If you're a teacher or student with a letter you can share, please do so here in the comments. It would be great to hear more of these stories. :-)

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

This came to me via Facebook a few years ago. I've excerpted part of the larger conversation here. The surprising part was that I didn't even realize how much of an impact I had on this kid (or how rough his life was at home) until I got this message.

Hey T-

...Something funny, had my parents been sane, and I thought I could attend college right after high school, I most certainly would have gone to be a teacher.

I've often thought about how my upbringing has shaped both my brother and I. Both of us are doing quite well. My brother and I would have conversations at home about, if we could choose teachers to be our parents. We both would pick Mr. F for our dad, and I told him more than once that I would have chosen you. Funny now, since I bet you are not but maybe 10 years or less older than me.

But really, what it was, was the attention you gave me, and I knew you believed in me. I went into a bathroom stall and cried once when you told me you were proud of me.
So, over the last year, I've lost a lot of sleep over the decision "To teach or not to teach..." thinking how rewarding it would be to have a positive impact on some child's life.
so, Thanks!!!

XXX

Dr. Denise Jamison's picture
Dr. Denise Jamison
Life & Academic Coach/Consultant, Acad. Therapist, Educator - Pensacola, FL

I received the following letter from a previous student right before the Christmas holidays 2013. What a present to receive! These words of appreciation encourage to continue to fight the good fight for the sake of our children. Some parts I have deleted or reworded due to privacy and confidentiality.

I don't know if you remember me, but I was a middle school student of yours at from 2000 - 2001. I was in the gifted class, and you helped me shadow at a small graphic design business. I know this is out of the blue, but I've since moved away and I always wanted to thank you. I know adolescents aren't known for their sense of awareness or appreciation and so this thanks is coming many years too late. You are the teacher I remember most because you pointed out my complacency and pushed me to have an internal drive outside of the letter grades.

Up until that point, I had a mediocre expectancy of my future. I planned on going to high school, getting good grades because it was easy, and maybe shooting for college if I could find a barrel of money. I didn't have anyone pushing me. No one in my family had gone to college and only a few completed high school, so just getting good grades was enough for them. But you pushed me. At first I thought you were kind of mean, because my juvenile understanding of the world took any criticism that way. But I've come to realize over the years that you pushed me in a way no one else had and it gave me an internal motivation that I desperately needed.

I left middle school and enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program in high school. I graduated in the top 10% of my class, went on to UWF on a full scholarship and graduated with honors, then finished my education at the FSU College of Law and got my Juris Doctorate in the top 5% of my class. I opened a firm with my business partner in Jacksonville and we have been practicing on our own for the past year. I don't think I could or would have put in the time, effort, anger, and pain to get here if you had not pushed me back then.

Again, I'm sorry if this is out of nowhere or if it sounds crazy. I just wanted to make sure that I finally said thank you for all of the work you put into teaching me. I hope this finds you well and have a great day.

(1)
Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

There's a really touching tribute to Kevin McKellar, the Headteacher at Hendon School, on his passing. It's written by a colleague and mentee and includes a thank you note from one of his former students. It's clear that this is a man who touched man lives: http://thosethatcanteach.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/losing-your-head/

Here's a quote: For Kevin, anything was possible. 'Go for it!' was his response to any idea or inspiration - 'then come back and show me IMPACT!' The school was haven to guinea pigs, dogs, small children and, for a memorable summer, an enormous circus tent. He believed we all need constant challenge and inspiration, and had a way of picking up on restlessness and creating new and exciting opportunities and cajoling and pestering and spurring us on to success.

And then this: As a former colleague, mentee and friend of Kevin, I'll pledge this to him: I won't be complacent or defeatist. I'll stand up for my moral values with conviction. I won't be afraid to be different or fallible or admit when I'm wrong. I'll always ask how I, and those around me, can be even better. I'll continue to celebrate diversity and difference and eccentricity. I'll put people first and continue to work to fulfil the potential you saw in me. And I'll continue to try to make you proud.

Dr. Denise Jamison's picture
Dr. Denise Jamison
Life & Academic Coach/Consultant, Acad. Therapist, Educator - Pensacola, FL

I received the following letter from a previous student right before the Christmas holidays 2013. What a present to receive! These words of appreciation encourage to continue to fight the good fight for the sake of our children. Some parts I have deleted or reworded due to privacy and confidentiality.

I don't know if you remember me, but I was a middle school student of yours at from 2000 - 2001. I was in the gifted class, and you helped me shadow at a small graphic design business. I know this is out of the blue, but I've since moved away and I always wanted to thank you. I know adolescents aren't known for their sense of awareness or appreciation and so this thanks is coming many years too late. You are the teacher I remember most because you pointed out my complacency and pushed me to have an internal drive outside of the letter grades.

Up until that point, I had a mediocre expectancy of my future. I planned on going to high school, getting good grades because it was easy, and maybe shooting for college if I could find a barrel of money. I didn't have anyone pushing me. No one in my family had gone to college and only a few completed high school, so just getting good grades was enough for them. But you pushed me. At first I thought you were kind of mean, because my juvenile understanding of the world took any criticism that way. But I've come to realize over the years that you pushed me in a way no one else had and it gave me an internal motivation that I desperately needed.

I left middle school and enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program in high school. I graduated in the top 10% of my class, went on to UWF on a full scholarship and graduated with honors, then finished my education at the FSU College of Law and got my Juris Doctorate in the top 5% of my class. I opened a firm with my business partner in Jacksonville and we have been practicing on our own for the past year. I don't think I could or would have put in the time, effort, anger, and pain to get here if you had not pushed me back then.

Again, I'm sorry if this is out of nowhere or if it sounds crazy. I just wanted to make sure that I finally said thank you for all of the work you put into teaching me. I hope this finds you well and have a great day.

(1)

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