The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. —William Arthur Ward

When I think about National Teacher Day, I can’t help but reminisce about the teachers who impacted my life. They blessed me with their presence and I learned and grew from that interaction. I have had my fair share of mediocre teachers but I prefer to recall the good, superior and great ones who educated me and paved the way for me to become a teacher myself. 

With fifteen years of teaching under my belt, I still remember the impact of a certain instructor that I still keep in touch with. Let’s call her “Mrs. K”. You could tell by her daily smile that she genuinely loved what she did. When we heard her heels clicking on the tile floor of the hallway, we knew she was coming. When she arrived in the classroom each and every day, she greeted us with the brightest of smiles and, when we stepped out of line, she respectfully steered us back in the right direction. You always found her in the building as she wasn’t one of those teachers who rushed out the door as soon as the bell rang. She took the time to explain and demonstrate to you when she felt that you were having difficulty. School was fun for me and I was hungry for more. I looked forward to coming to school every single day because I knew I was learning valuable information from Mrs. K. 

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Another teacher who demonstrated that she truly cared was my third grade teacher, “Mrs. G”. I was the ultimate chatter box (surprised, are you?) who could have probably taken the place of Oprah in our classroom. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be talking, especially during instruction, but what child doesn’t test the limits and boundaries of a teacher? Well, in third grade, I was messing with the wrong educator because this particular teacher decided to pay me a visit at home one night! My mother was in on the action and knew the teacher was coming, but I don’t think she knew what for. It was about dinnertime and the doorbell rang. My mother sent me to get the door. When I saw a familiar Afro hairdo peeking out from the top of the glass door I couldn’t believe it. Mrs. G was actually knocking at my door. My mother invited her to eat dinner and dessert and I was mortified as she made casual conversation with my parents and me around the dinner table. After that encounter, I knew that this teacher cared about me and was worried I was going down the wrong path. Thanks to that understanding, my classroom behavior greatly improved.

In college, I had Professor “M” who I knew really cared about me and my education. This professor read through every piece of my writing and she gave feedback to help develop me as a writer. She didn’t do it in a demeaning or belittling way (as many mediocre teachers do), but rather in the tenderest form. She would often conference with students privately and she always made me feel that I had so much more to offer, that as long as I set the bar high for myself and was determined, I could achieve anything. When she spoke to me, her eyes communicated that I was important to her.

I have always made the effort and been committed to saying thank you to each and every one of my teachers, because it was something that my mother instilled in me, a certain “respect for Educators.” In case the above three, or any other teachers out there, ever feel that they are forgotten—you aren’t! I am here to say—thank you! Thank you to those who take an extra moment in your day to make a child feel special and remind them that education is important and that you can do anything you set out to accomplish. Thank you from that little girl who, like some of those little children I’ve had in my classroom, sometimes felt a little lost and needed a push in the right direction. You’re important and you’re valued and, while many forget to say it, we’re all very grateful.