Students don’t get here all by themselves

As the end of the semester – and for many of us the end of our undergraduate experiences – draws near, I begin to think about how far we students have come in our educations. Having recently learned that one of my former principals is retiring this year, I am reminded of how much teachers and administrators touch our lives.

I still relish the lessons taught by my former teachers – not lessons in academics but lessons in life. Aside from family and friends, of course, they were the ones who inspired me, motivated me and gave me the confidence and interest to pursue a variety of experiences through school.

During elementary school, students can feel stress from being separated from their families for long periods of time each day, so they begin close relationships with their peers. However, the prevalence of caring and reassuring individuals at school allows them to grow and learn to trust, as well as become independent. My kindergarten and first grade teachers were gentle and kind, allowing their students to demonstrate creativity through self-written plays and other projects. And our principals destroyed the myths of being “scary” and always ready to discipline students; instead, they celebrated our birthdays with new pencils and bookmarks, and they were eager to eat lunch with us and tell a good story.

My fifth-grade teacher is another individual who springs to mind when I think about those who have moved me. Although she was only with us for one semester before going on maternity leave, my precious experiences in her class have stayed with me. It says a lot about a teacher when, seven years after being in her class, I receive a letter applauding me on my graduation from high school – a letter that also noted some of the memories we shared as a class. A select group from that same class was fortunate to work with another teacher in fifth grade who demonstrated that learning was more about life, cultures and people than about simple textbooks. With my diverse interests from that point through the present time, I know I have these teachers to thank for expanding my horizons.

Middle school brought an entirely new set of characters into our lives. For me, there was “The Three Stooges,” as we called them – three teachers who could instantly perk up the class with a joke about one of the others, and they would often use their humor to teach us. My English teacher became close to many of us – not only because his classes were interactive and entertaining, but also because he coached our academic teams.

While I have shared merely my own recollections of those who have touched my life as a student, I hope they ignite memories of your own – stories about teachers who were real-life heroes then and might even continue to be. College will soon be another set of memories for some of us, but the guidance we have received from our teachers and professors will live on.

For all they have given us, we should return the favor to our teachers – by saying thanks.