It’s come up a few times in recent days. On Facebook, a high school classmate posted about heading back to work as a teacher after maternity leave. In her post, she asked her friends to share good memories of teachers that stood out for them as inspiration. The post was flooded with responses honoring many of our high school teachers. Shortly after, another high school classmate asked me to fill out a Q&A. Among the questions was one about who has influenced me. While my grandmother holds firmly in the top spot, several inspiring English teachers also came to mind.
Even for the most popular among us, high school is a strange time. If we’re lucky, we discover who we are, form ideas about what we want to do and start down paths that will lead in the direction of our future. Hopefully — with the help of our teachers. The best teachers are the ones who can see past the pink tinted hair and attitude to the person inside — and then reach us there, exposing us to new thoughts, ideas and ways of looking at things.
For me, two really stand out.
Mr. Tyner taught me to love classic literature and to look deeper into writing — beyond the surface to see greater themes and messages. As a teacher, he was so encouraging and passionate about his subject — but tough, too. He also taught me to imagine and write stories that had the deeper meanings we read for in literature. He just retired last year, after decades of inspiring students, but I sent him a note awhile back letting him know how much his lessons had inspired and influenced me.
The same year that I had Mr. Tyner, I also had Mrs. Shannon for a couple classes for about half the year. She introduced me to journalism, taught me the principals of a good news story and encouraged me to dig deeper. My short time in her classes led me to my career, and fulfilling my dream of being a working writer. She was such a great champion for her students, and I was lucky to have spent a little time in her classroom.
I can’t thank Mr. Tyner and Mrs. Shannon enough.
Over the past six years, I have worked in education publishing — first as an editor for Weekly Reader and more recently as social media editor for Education World. That led me to spend much time learning about the challenges teachers face — and how educational publishing can help make it easier. The fact is that school budgets rarely cover all the supplies a teacher needs to inspire and engage students. So, often, they use their own money to supplement whatever they are given.
That is dedication.
The teachers I know look beyond their salaries to their roles in their students’ lives. They give their evenings and weekends to grading papers and preparing for their lessons. They know that what happens in their classroom can change kids for the better. Seeing how my classmates from Pawling High remember so many teachers for how they shaped their lives is testament to how intertwined the lessons in school and our lives are. I hope someday my kids can look back on their school years and fondly remember some of their teachers in this same way.
Labor Day is next week. The holiday isn’t just a day off from school or work. It’s a day that historically was meant to honor the creation of the labor movement and the social and economic achievements of American workers. AFL-CIO is honoring Labor Day by this year by recognizing workers for what they do. I was asked via BlogHer to share one person I would like to thank … and I could think of no one better than the teachers that shaped my life and career.
Want to thank someone too? Go to aflcio.org/thankyou to send a thank you card to someone whose work you appreciate.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my time in creating this post. However all opinions are my own.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.