Teacher Appreciation: Teachers Thank Teachers for Their Inspiration
The unsung heroes and influencers of today’s teachers are the teachers from their own school years. Chances are, there was a teacher along the way whose care, creativity, humor, or persistence inspired them in some way and made them see teaching as a great option.
In Episode 3 of Teacher Voice, we asked teachers on the first day of school, “If you could send a message to one of your former teachers, what would you say?”
Listen in to the podcast above (or read the transcript below) to find out what these teachers had to say to the teachers who inspired them.
Brian: My name’s Brian Cormier. I’m a seventh and eighth grade math teacher at Parker Middle School.
Dave Meyers: Brian says one of the most influential teachers he ever had was actually his mom.
Brian: I love you mom. But besides her, I’d say Mrs. Malke was my was my eighth grade algebra teacher and now Memorial Middle School in Beverly and really started to love math. I was always good at it, but she just really instilled in me a love of algebra and math. Algebra is a special kind of class, which really appeals to my sense of logic, and so on. And in her class was just fantastic. And she she really made me love math just for math’s sake. Not necessarily, you know, to get from point A to Point B, but to really love the process of, you know, solving problems.
Dave Meyers: Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Jeannie is a fourth grade elementary school teacher. She says a teacher who influenced her is a colleague named Jenny Bonacuori.
Jeannie: The first year I was teaching, I taught third grade. And the teachers on the grade were Gene, Jenny, and myself, Jeannie. I can’t tell you how much we all got mixed up with each other! And how everyone mixed us up. But Jenny was so amazing. And the first year of teaching, I didn’t think I did anything right. And now I can control the chaos, but I certainly couldn’t control it then. And no matter how awful my day was, Jenny was always my biggest fan, saying, ‘You did amazing, you did great!’ And I still look at that support that she gave me, and it was so unfailing. And then she even went on my second year of teaching. She insisted on having her son in my class, and then I eventually taught her second son. Because having her believe in me and her support and unstoppable, like enthusiasm, about me was just really the only thing that kept me in teaching. Because after the first year teaching, I was ready to go back into the corporate world.
Melanie: Hi. I’m Melanie Alexander. I work at Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts and this is my 13th first day of school.
Dave Meyers: Melanie Alexander is a dean at Brookline High School.
Dave Meyers: When asked which teachers influenced her — Melanie had a hard time narrowing it down.
Melanie: I’ve had— I’ve been blessed with so many amazing teachers. So my first grade teacher Mrs. Lyman made me know how special I was and how far I could go. And my fourth grade teacher always said to me, ‘You need to be specific, you have to go back to do that again.’ And then my 10th grade math teacher was really funny and wouldn’t let me slide. so I guess all my dean actually in high school who had to go to my house a couple of times and told my mother about some bad behavior. So I would really say thank you to all of them. I think their Gift was knowing what I needed at the time and knowing not to give up and to be encouraging and yet always have high expectations.
Dave Meyers: Our next speaker included a tactic in her own tool kit that she learned from one of her old teachers.
Kristin: My name is Kristin Freyne. I teach at Pierce Middle School, and I am an eighth grade science teacher.
Dave Meyers: A little thing that felt goofy back then, seems to have left a big impression.
Kristin: Mr. Gibbs. And he would do this thing at the start of every class called thumbs check in. And you know at the time I was like, ‘This is so stupid.’ And then towards the end of the year I was like, actually, that was kind of nice. He asked how we were doing every single day and took time every single day to do that. So I now do that. And I tell the kids, like, I’ve been in your shoes you’re going to think this is stupid. But at the end of the year, you’re going to miss it. And that is exactly what has happened the past two years. I’ve been doing it, so I know I’m a big one for that. Awesome. Yeah, thanks. Yes. Thank you Mr. Gibbs.
Dave Meyers: This simple act of checking-in changed how Kristen saw school. And it shows how students may not realize until years later how a teacher influenced their day to day classroom experience.
Dave Meyers: Our next teacher never had a chance to tell her teacher how much he was appreciated.
Melissa: My name is Melissa Motta, I teach at Pierce Middle School in Milton, Massachusetts and I teach 7th grade science.
Dave Meyers: Melissa says one teacher she wants to thank is Mr. Johnson, and one message she hopes to send is:
Melissa: Thank you for everything that you did. Why? Because I really didn’t like school going into high school. He was one of the teachers that turned that around for me. I know that no I don’t think he does. That’s why I would say thank you. He might know that teachers kind of know those things actually.
Dave Meyers: In a busy hallway — we meet Carol Pagan.
Carol: I work for the Providence school department. I work at the Alfred Lima elementary school and I’m a second grade teacher.
Dave Meyers: Without hesitation, Carol pointed to a teacher who radically changed her life.
Carol: Yes, Mr. Michael Householder. He definitely was my motivator, my inspiration. And I feel that I am where I am because of him. And I was a sophomore in high school. And when a teacher finally like reached me on a special level. And he just saw something in me. And I saw something in him. And he stuck with me, and he said, you’re applying to Brown and that’s it. And I’m going to take you so to go to admissions. And I had no idea where Brown was. And he gave me a tour, and took me to conferences at Brown. I met Cesar Chavez. Like, I did things that I had — that my world did not involve. So he opened up a world that was not there for me.
Dave Meyers: Carol says because of the motivating impact that Mr. Householder had, she’s still friends with this teacher years later.
Dave Meyers: Now let’s hear from one more veteran teacher.
Dawn: Hi my name’s Dawn Fernandes, and this is my first day of my 9th year teaching.
Dave Meyers: Dawn pointed to a powerful conversation with her 10th grade history teacher, Mr. Walsh.
Dawn: He knew I wanted to be a teacher. I told him I wanted to be a history teacher. He’ll take me and said But you hate history. And I said well, I like you, and I think you’re a really good teacher. And he said well, thank you. But it’s probably because I love history. And so you’re going to be a great teacher, when you find the thing that you love and you teach that. And so for Mr. Walsh. Thank you. I love language, and I love culture, and I’m so lucky to be teaching that every single day. And the moment it stops, I promise I’ll walk away. But I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon. So happy first day everybody. The kids are coming in.
Dave Meyers: And as I watched the students enter into the room one by one, I got to wondering, which of these kids are gonna make up the next generation of teachers?
Dave Meyers: For Ed Tech Times, I’m Dave Meyers.
Listen to the rest of the Teacher Voice podcast series:
This podcast episode is sponsored by TeachersConnect, a community built by teachers, for teachers.
To learn more about how TeachersConnect infuses PK-12 teachers with skill, confidence, and joy, visit teachersconnect.com.
Hannah Nyren is the General Manager of EdTech Times. A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.