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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Thank a teacher

Thank a teacher

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I've been thinking a lot about the teachers who shaped my life over the years. The one who comes to mind first and foremost is Ms. Thames. She was my 2nd and 4th grade teacher, and - scandal! - one of the first teachers in that midwestern school to go by "Ms." She radiated so much love that she was almost luminous. She would take us on all kinds of outings- hiking through the forest, touring a local farm, or visiting an artist who made those cheesy macrame owls. Ms. Thames taught me to read and write and 'rithmatic, too, but way more than that, she taught me that there are a lot of pretty cool little miracles out there. I was elated to find that Ms Thames on Facebook, and that she's still teaching! I pinged her and she said she remembered me. Whether she did or not, we're Facebook friends now. :) Would love to hear stories of others' most influential teachers and what they taught you.
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frances rice's picture

I can remember some very special teachers. In second grade I absolutely adored my teacher, and it was devastating for me when I had to move to a new school towards the end of second grade. She sang a lot and I remember learning the Burl Ive's song, Mares Eat Oats. I can picture her face, but sadly I can not remember her name. I loved Mrs. Alweiss in fifth grade at Beethoven Street Elementary School. She read the most delicious chapter books to us every day after lunch for about a half an hour. I remember singing most every day too. In eighth grade I was at a private school in Calabassas and one of the directors of the school Ken Ketche (sp?) had to take over our English class after the school year got going. He was an incredible teacher that really brought literature to life! I looked forward to his class every day. I remember how excited he got me about reading White Fang by Jack London.
I am currently a master's degree candidate in education at an outreach program from Lesley University and all of my professors have been wonderful!!! My fellow cohort members have all shared their lives and expertise, and it's been a phenomenal growing experience.

Rosina Tong's picture
Rosina Tong
Principal, Chinese Immersion School at De Avila, SFUSD

Liu Lao Shi and Tsao Lao Shi were my Chinese language teachers at UC Berkeley who made language learning fun and real. Thanks to you both for having a sense of humor and for the Chinese conversations shared in partners and groups. The opportunities to gather together in social settings to practice our language were invaluable. Also, a huge thank you to the five teachers at Chinese Immersion School at De Avila who decided to take on a new school together. From frantically putting together our classrooms three days before school begins to creating fun Chinese curricula for the students; from building a Caring School Community to writing a poetic Pledge to "Be the Best Me" in Chinese. Your dedication and hours of hard work are appreciated!

Robert Kostka's picture

My father was born in America to recently-arrived Polish immigrants. Shortly after his brother was born, their father died of the Flu during the famous epidemic. My father started school unable to speak English and promptly stayed back in the first grade. As he floundered in his second attempt at that grade, his teacher took him under her wing and spent time everyday after school teaching him English. Once he learned how to read and write, my father caught up to the rest of his class quickly. He later graduated high school (at a time when most didn't)and began a very successful business career. He always told us it was thanks to his teacher. I believe that was one of the motivations for me to become a teacher. I wanted to have that same impact on someone's life. Now, in my 40th year of teaching, I can't think of anything more important or satisfying than being a teacher.

Bob Kostka

Robert Kostka's picture

My father was born to recent Polish immigrants in 1913. Shortly after his brother's birth, his father died during the Flu Epidemic in 1918. When my father started elementary school, he could not speak or understand English. He promptly failed first grade and stayed back. During his second year in first grade, his teacher recognized that my father had talent but couldn't understand the language. She, therefore, tutored him every day after school in English. Once he learned how to read and write, my father took off academically, eventually graduating high school (a relatively rare occurance at that time) and eventually bought a business with my mother. He became a very successful business man in the community. My father always thanked his teacher for making all this possible and speculated what his life might have been without her concern. I believe that this was the reason why I decided to be a teacher - I wanted to impact someone's life as this teacher did my father's. I am now in my 40th year teaching and can't think of a more important or more satisfying occupation.

Lynda Venhuizen's picture

Mrs. Sandy Harmeson was my favorite teacher as a child. In second grade, she recognized my need for a little support and respite from my big brothers after school. This was long before OST programs!! She invited me to stay at school with her and help her prepare for her next day of teaching. She even invited me to come to her house to share meals and good times with her family. It is hard to imagine a teacher reaching out like this today! I continued as her helper for a couple of years. She was definitely my inspiration to become a teacher. My dream job was teaching second grade...imagine that! Now I teach future educators and often share my story of Mrs. Harmeson. Thank you!

Stefanie Hayes's picture

A 3rd grade teacher at Woodland Elementary School in Eastpointe Michigan touched my life...Mrs. Trupiano. Mrs. Trupiano knew how to relate to me. She was understanding yet firm. She had high expectations but always knew when I needed a little extra attention. Teaching is a fine art. Very few have the true "gift". My 3rd grade teacher did! As a matter of fact, because of teachers like Mrs. Trupiano, and great parents, I am a succesful elementary school principal. I love what I do! and I just hope that I have the "gift" that Mrs. Trupiano had! Thanks!

Elaine Farrar's picture
Elaine Farrar
Technology Resource Teacher

I would like to thank my sixth grade teacher, Bonnie Kramer. She taught at McKenna Junior High in Massapequa Park, NY. Ms. Kramer knew how to motivate her students. She used problem-based learning back in the sixties, before it was the cool thing to do. We built a life-size medieval village in our classroom. Students met outside class because we were so excited about the projects we were working on and weren't sure that the work would be completed during the time we had in class. I will never forget Ms. Kramer. Not only did she spark our creativity and imagination, she was compassionate and caring. She is the reason I became a teacher and have been in this profession for 33 years.

Kelly Schermerhorn's picture

I was fortunate enough to be in the best kindergarten class ever! My teacher, Mrs. Sharon (Heron) Getty was a first year teacher and she was amazing! I was in the AM kindergarten at Greenport Elementary School in Hudson, NY. I remember her class like I was in it yesterday. She was always listening, attentive and sharing with all-students and teachers. After leaving her class, I always went in to visit her and she always kept in touch with my family. When I graduated from high school, I moved away and went to college. After returning back to Hudson, I substituted in the district that I had graduated from. I was so grateful to have spent time in her classroom, which she had switched teaching positions to the second grade. She still was the same awesome teacher that I remembered! When I met my husband, he and I talked about kindergarten and we discovered that he also had MY teacher; in the afternoon of the same year! We invited her to the wedding (of course) and I am so lucky to continue to have her in my life now. She is a great friend and as a teacher now,I am always reminded of the following: you never know whose life your going to touch-thanks Sharon:)

Julia Nemcek's picture
Julia Nemcek
Middle School Media Specialist/District Library Coordinator

I had so many wonderful teachers as a kid. Probably the most influential was Mrs. White. She was strict and firm but enriching and thoughtful. In elementary school she was the librarian and then by the time I entered middle school she was teaching English. Interesting to me that I started as an English teacher and moved to the library - just the opposite of her career path.

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

Mr. Rutherford was not the warm, fuzzy type, at least not on the surface. With a fleeting smile and quick step, he seemed perpetually in a hurry. Yet somehow he inspired his journalism students to put in the extra effort. It wasn't until years later, when I was working as a reporter, that I recognized his secret. He treated us high school kids as professionals. His room wasn't a classroom; it was a newsroom. Deadlines were there to be met, not debated about. Sloppy writing got rewritten until it was crisp. Best of all, he managed to convince us we had come up with these high standards all on our own. And if a story was certain to stir up controversy with the administration, he didn't blink. As long as the reporting was solid, he had our back. So here's to you, Mr. R. Thanks for the gentle push in the right direction.

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