In Appreciation for the Teachers in Our Lives
Photo Credit: Max Fischer/Pexels
Sometimes, in the course of just doing their everyday job, a person can perform a miracle and not even realize it. Such is the wonder of the teaching profession. We all remember that one teacher (or several, if we’re lucky) who made quite an impact in our lives.
That person for me was Mrs. Shough, my eighth-grade English teacher. I was a painfully shy 13-year-old who had recently immigrated to the United States. While I was a voracious reader, I was not confident in my English-speaking skills. During my entire seventh-grade year, my first year in this country, I didn’t speak to anyone; instead, I watched a lot of TV after school, trying to learn as much conversational English as I could.
By the time I was in eighth grade, I was reluctantly coming out of my shell, and I credit Mrs. Shough for helping me with my transformation. She realized early on my eagerness to learn English; I aced every spelling test and, knowing I was shy and not comfortable speaking, she tried to get me out of my comfort zone by making me her classroom helper. When I got a 100 on the spelling test, I got to skip the following week’s test; instead, I got to give the test to the class, reading out loud the words. This meant getting up in front of my classmates and actually speaking. This was a terrifying prospect for me, but Mrs. Shough was so encouraging. Eventually, I gained confidence, and while I was nervous each time, I pushed through the discomfort, mostly because I wanted to impress her and didn’t want to let her down.
In her English class, she introduced me to the world of literature and poetry. (I would eventually go on to major in poetry in college.) My English got better and better, and I even began to feel confident enough to make friends. At the end of the school year, two students — one boy, one girl — are chosen as the most outstanding eighth-grader and given a special award during graduation. I won this honor, and when Mrs. Shough handed me my award and hugged me, I was filled with love and gratitude for her. When I started the school year, she didn’t see a shy and language-challenged girl; she only saw potential. She could have left me cowering in the corner of the classroom, but she took the time to nurture me and unlock my possibility. She set me on a path of academic achievement, which would continue through high school and college. She believed in me before I believed in myself.
Teaching is a labor of love. When students did distance learning at the start of the pandemic, parents across the world got a taste of it, and realized just how hard it is to do what teachers do every single day. And what they do is nothing short of a miracle.
While Mrs. Shough was my role model at school, my mother, who was also a teacher, was my role model at home. Like Mrs. Shough, my mother saw the potential in her students. She taught English to migrant kids, whose parents spent all day working the fields in the blazing Arizona heat. Her students would ride a bus for more than an hour each morning to go to school, then help their parents in the fields in the afternoon and well into the evening. Most weekends, my mother would invite a couple of students to stay with us, just so they could get a break from working and enjoy a normal life as teenagers. These kids didn’t speak English very well and were often shy, and I felt an instant kinship to them. They looked at my mother with reverence, the same way I looked at Mrs. Shough when I was in her classroom.
During high school and college, I was lucky enough to have many teachers who nurtured me as a student and as a person. There was Mr. O’Grady, my college prep English teacher and yearbook adviser during senior year, who was not just a mentor but a friend and got me out of non-school-related jams once or twice. In college, I had a classics professor who ignited my passion for Greek tragedy, and a poetry professor whose book of poems I carry around to this day and read often.
After college, unsure whether I wanted to go to graduate school or not, I worked as an elementary and middle school substitute teacher for a year. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, and while it ended up not being for me, it gave me an even greater appreciation for how hard it truly is to teach. It takes a remarkable person — people like my mother and Mrs. Shough and countless others — to make young minds come alive.
Teaching is a labor of love, and I got another shot at it when I homeschooled my son for two years during his elementary school years. When students did distance learning at the start of the pandemic, parents across the world got a taste of it, too, and realized just how hard it is to do what teachers do every single day. And what they do is nothing short of a miracle.
This post is part of a series honoring beloved teachers who make a difference with their kindness, love, and wisdom each day. Thank you to all of our educators from all of us at CircleAround.com. To read other stories in this series, please click here.