As we shared in our post on Wednesday, we at NWEA have the privilege of working with teachers and educators all over the country and around the world. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked our staff to share their stories of teachers who made a difference in their lives. Today, we share these stories in their own words.
Rock Sharma, Technical Consultant, Technical Support
The biggest lesson he taught me 8,000 miles away and 30 years ago – a lesson that I have passed on to my son – one person can change the world.
Can one person change the world? It is a question I asked my son when he was 11 (he is 16 now).
I grew up in Singapore and when I was 15, my father passed away tragically. The world as I knew it disintegrated into the ashes that remained of the man who was best friend, my role model, my hero… my everything. The future seemed bleak and I lost the most precious thing that propels us forward – hope.
My father taught us the value of education, and I was always a good student. With his loss, I lost the will to fight and I abandoned my studies. I could not see, or feel, beyond my grief. One person stepped forward to lift me up on his shoulders – my Principal, Mr. Siva. He made me believe in rainbows after the rain. He inspired me to rise above all odds to not only shine, but to illuminate the lives of others. He gave me strength and courage to stand up when all I wanted to do was lay down.
A teacher believed in me in my darkest hour, and while my father instilled the value of education in me, it was Mr. Siva who re-ignited the spark to help me achieve a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, and an MBA. The biggest lesson he taught me 8,000 miles away and 30 years ago – a lesson that I have passed on to my son – one person can change the world. Mr. Siva changed mine. He taught me I have the power to do the same.
I am at NWEA because of that simple, yet profound, lesson. I believe that if, through my contributions here, I can impact the life of just one of the eight million kids we serve, I will change the world.
Thank you, Mr. Siva. My son and I are forever indebted to you.
Kathy, Director, Product Operations, Product Management
He showed me…that speaking up could make a difference, and that I mattered. He showed me that you can make a difference even if you’re flawed.
One of my favorite teachers was M. Gastonguay, my French teacher. I had him for French II, having transferred to the high school where he taught at the beginning of my sophomore year. It was tough. The new school had higher academic standards and I was woefully behind the other students in my class. I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, let alone do the reading and homework. I tried to drop the class but M. Gastonguay wouldn’t let me, telling me that he knew I could catch up and succeed. But every time I raised my hand to ask a question, he’d yell at me for not knowing. And if he called on me and I didn’t know, he would yell at me for not asking. The perfect Catch-22. I was miserable.
One day, we had to answer homework questions on the board, of course in French. The questions started with a yes or no question and a follow up. You weren’t allowed to answer “no” to the first question. My questions were “Have you ever seen a foreign film? What was the name of the film?” So I wrote in French “Yes, I have seen a foreign film.” But I’d never seen a foreign film so I asked M. Gastonguay for the name of a foreign film and he replied sarcastically, “How would I know? I’m not the one who saw the film!” Boy that made me mad. So I made up a film name and wrote it on the board. It was something like “The Cruel Teacher”. Well, when it was my turn to read my answers I did and he asked me why that was the name of the film. I said, “I don’t know. It was that way on the marquis.” The class laughed, but he didn’t, and I had to stay after class. And yes, he yelled at me. I was already mad and that made me madder so I actually talked back which was “not done” and I told him that he wasn’t fair and described the Catch-22 he’d put me in. He got still, looked pretty mad, but he got very quiet and dismissed me. I thought I might be in really big trouble. The next day when he told me to stay after class I was sure I was in for it. But instead of yelling at me more or giving me detention, he apologized. And then he changed. Really changed. He stopped yelling at me, helped me learn, and I caught up and caught some of his passion for the language. I ended up taking French every year in high school and studied it for two more years in college; because he had faith in me and because he listened and adapted. And he inspired me to work hard and prove him right.
He showed me how to own your mistakes even when you can get away with not owning them, that the power of an apology – especially from someone in authority – is immense, that speaking up could make a difference, and that I mattered. He showed me that you can make a difference even if you’re flawed. I have thought of him often over the years. He was a passionate teacher. He didn’t let me give up on myself, he listened to me, adapted, and he gave me so much more than the ability to conjugate French verbs in the past and future tense. I’ve long since forgotten the French he taught me but still carry the life lessons he demonstrated so graciously. If I saw him today, I would say “Merci”.
Vicky Billings, Senior Account Manager
She inspired in me a love of reading…it was never boring or drudgery to complete my “reading assignments” for school.
One of MY favorite teachers impacted me BEFORE I even started school. When I was 5, in rural North Texas, there was no kindergarten. One started First Grade at 6 years old. When I was 4 or 5, an older couple in town kept cows in our pasture. Mrs. Blakey was an elementary teacher. While her husband fed the cows, I would sit in the truck with her because she brought workbooks filled with pages of early reading and math skills. She would spend that time with me, creating an informal kindergarten class just for me! I don’t remember any specific details of what I learned, but the memory of that early experience is quite vivid, telling me that this definitely influenced my journey of becoming an engaged learner. She inspired in me a love of reading…it was never boring or drudgery to complete my “reading assignments” for school.
If I could speak to Mrs. Blakey today, I would tell her “Thank you for taking time to teach and influence a little girl who was NOT part of your classroom responsibility. You proved that the mentoring and tutoring of young children by older adults was then, and is now, a valuable and effective practice in education.”
I think public education should more strongly embrace the positive power of adult tutors/mentors and create flexible, workable plans to see more of them in schools. In my own community, a partnership between the elementary schools and local churches provide much needed adult interaction with struggling, disadvantaged students. There is great power in these relationships to enhance academic achievement and personal growth—for both student and the adult mentor/tutor!
Susan Maginnis, Account Manager, NE Region
He was so passionate…by the end of a 50 minute period he would be completely disheveled; shirt tail out, tie askew, hair a mess.
One of my favorite teachers was my 8th grade social studies teacher who was a very tall, rather formal man with a British accent. His name was Mr. Buckley and he wore a suit and tie to work every day. He was so passionate about his subject matter that by the end of a 50 minute period he would be completely disheveled; shirt tail out, tie askew, hair a mess. He was very dramatic and at the same time completely in touch with his students. He called us all Mr. and Miss and he had our utmost respect. I was completely inspired by his enthusiasm and love for teaching and even though I already knew I wanted to be a teacher I decided I wanted to be THAT kind of teacher that held his students spellbound for an entire class period! I would like to think I achieved that during my 30 years of teaching. I would also like to think that there are still teachers out there with that kind of passion for making a difference in kids’ lives even with all the increased demands of the CCR Standards. And even though I am new to NWEA I have already interacted with some of those people, still giving it their all to make decisions on what makes sense for their students.
Thanks for asking. I haven’t thought about good old Mr. B in many years. It put a smile on my face!
We hope you’ve enjoyed the stories we shared during this Teacher Appreciation Week. We also hope that it got you thinking of teachers and other people who have shaped your lives.