George Lucas Educational Foundation

Who Was That One Student You'll Always Remember?

Who Was That One Student You'll Always Remember?

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Who was that one student you'll always remember? Who was that one student who you learned from or who made an impact on you?

For me, it was Paul. It was my first year teaching and I was teaching in an inner city school made devastated by poverty and district neglect. The students had been neglected by their own community and shoved into this underfunded, under-served school whose staff was the only consistency in their lives. And in walks Paul. Paul, only 3 weeks in America, who walked into our classroom of struggle bringing a light with him. He came from a village in Nepal, and when I asked why his parents moved to the United Streets, in broken English, he said people were getting shot in the streets so they snuck out with help from different countries. He told me rainbows made water poisonous to man, then we played with prisms in science class, and he learned otherwise. When his classmates were down he would do backflips in the center of the room to make them smile. My husband and I took him and friend to the Exploratorium and there he pedaled his way to making a lightbulb activate. It activated his imagination too.

I recently heard from Paul who wrote about me in his college essay. I had been his introduction to education in this country and his writing spoke about the importance of teachers who make an impact. Little did he know how much impact he also made upon me too.

But these kids are in every school and in every classroom. It's just that sometimes teachers don't see them through our own day-to-day struggles. Please share your stories. In so doing, you'll be sharing the memory of those kids with us as well.

-Heather WG

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Allyssa Andersen's picture
Allyssa Andersen
Middle School Spanish Teacher from Lake Geneva, WI

It was the kid that all of our staff ripped our hair out trying to figure out. He had lots of family issues and was very passive-aggressive. When he wasn't being passive-aggressive, he was defiant if he thought what he was asked to do wasn't of value to him.
It was a constant struggle and he's the kid I think we as a staff failed him. We couldn't figure him out and just let him slide into high school where we hoped things would get better. I haven't heard about him lately and I hope he's OK. I think about him a lot and hope to find better tools to helping any kid that comes along in the future with similar issues.

Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

There are quite a few but one comes to mind tonight. I'll call him "R". He didn't talk to me for the first year I taught him. Well, he did talk occasionally, usually to say something negative. One time, when I asked his something, he said, "You won't be here so why should I listen?" I told him I was there now and didn't intend on going anywhere. He didn't believe me. I had to prove myself to him. He'd heard the stories before and was sure I was not in it for the long hall. I proved him wrong.
I made progress over the years with him but didn't think I made much of an impression on him. He was part of the first 8th grade class to "graduate" from our inner-city, poverty stricken school. I was so proud if him. I figured that was it. I didn't expect to hear from him again.
It my surprise, I received a Christmas gift from him - via his mother and father - the next year. I was touched. Then I got a Valentine's gift; then Mother's Day. In fact, I have received a present from him every major holiday since he left our school for the past 4 years.
This year, he gave me an even greater gift. He wants me to come to his High School graduation. He has thanked me for caring so much about him over all these years - he said it means so much to him. He is a student who has taught me a very precious lesson: As teachers, we plant seeds in students' souls. We may not always see the "fruits of our labors" but that doesn't mean that he ground wasn't fertile. Often, we don't know how our little seed has grown into a mighty oak. I consider myself lucky that I have witnessed the mighty oak growing - I hope to see it continue to grow for years to come.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

[quote]As teachers, we plant seeds in students' souls. We may not always see the "fruits of our labors" but that doesn't mean that he ground wasn't fertile.[/quote]

I wish this were a bumper sticker. May we all be paid with such a realization.

Thanks for sharing, and for joining the discussion.
-Heather WG

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