Tuesday marks National Teacher Appreciation Day, so leading up to the big occasion, we had to ask: Who was your favorite teacher, growing up? What made that person so special and memorable?
The responses came pouring in -- and they were so heartfelt and touching.
We’ve compiled a bunch, in hopes that perhaps the mentioned educator will get some recognition (so TAG that person if you recognize a name or school district!), and perhaps to serve as some inspiration: for future teachers, parents who are having to teach their children virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation-- or maybe just to put a smile on your face. Teachers are so good.
Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for clarity, length and grammar. Readers could choose how many specifics they’d like to share, so some educators have first names and/or courtesy titles provided, others don’t. Some mention a geographical region, others do not. Happy reading!
This educator who was more than just a teacher.
Lois Moyer at Plymouth Canton Community Education Starkweather (1990-?)
“She encouraged me that I mattered, that I was creative that my ideas mattered. She was absolutely amazing, patient and the kindest woman ever! I should note that, at the time I went here, I had lost my home and was living with my boyfriend and some friends. I was really scared, overwhelmed and unsure of my life. My mom had lost our apartment after my grandpa died and so my life changed and got really scary all at once, but Lois encouraged journaling and poetry to get my feelings out. It was due to her encouragement and help that I wrote my first ‘published’ poem, Spring Sorrows.”
-- Tara Bernth
The teacher who made students believe.
Marguerite Wright at Woodland Elementary (this respondent attended her classes from 1995-2000).
“Mrs. Wright made reading so much fun! She taught “library,” which was a multi-media class. She introduced me to Beverly Clearly, Laura Ingalls-Wilder, Dr.Seuss, Shel Silverstein and so many more.
“In her class, you were always on an adventure. I have fond memories of sitting on the carpet and listening to her read to us ‘The Polar Express’ for the first time just before Christmas. She told the class about how the story took place in Michigan. To me, that made it real -- very real. I would believe forever in the magical train.
“As an adult, when I look back on the memories of library class, I realize all the small ways Mrs. Wright not only inspired me, but was patient, kind and inspiring to other students as well -- never getting frustrated with someone who had a hard time reading or a disability.
“Sometimes a true role model isn’t the person who overtly shows you how to help, but silently does it anyways without proper recognition. She had passion for running the school library and passion for introducing magical adventures to all readers of all levels. For that, I am thankful.
-- Julie Bartkowicz
This teacher who made ALL the difference.
Toni Giglio at Waterford Kettering High School (1990s-present. This respondent attended her classes from 2012-2014).
“She was super funny, expected us to do well in her class, and was a fine mix of tough and empathetic. She didn’t like excuses, but she was also understanding when necessary. I was in her psychology and anthropology classes, which I loved. Listening to her lectures prepared me for college unlike any other teacher I’ve had. She does it just like professors do, but maybe at a high school level. It was tough keeping up at first, but eventually, I got the hang of her ways and I did fairly well in her classes.
“She also never knew that my family and I had no place to live during my junior year due to evictions and a financial crisis from the divorce of my parents. We stayed in the car, motels, friends’ houses, with relatives, etc. Just her presence made all the difference in the world to me, it was a relief being in her class where I was safe and I trusted her. I was suicidal, and she was one of the main reasons I stuck around. My classwork and homework were the only things in my life I had control over at the time, and I wanted to make her proud and do well. Her spirit motivated me to get through some very difficult times in my life, and for that, I’m forever grateful.”
-- Sonia Whittie
This teacher, who made challenging subjects a little easier.
Harriet Wade-Higginbotham, who taught at Thomas Jefferson Elementary (HISD) in the early 1960s.
“She was much nicer, more caring and a better educator than any other teacher I ever had. My grades and educational achievement rose considerably in her class (fourth grade) due to her excellence as a teacher. Subjects that had been challenging suddenly became easy. I will always remember her fondly. I wish I knew how to contact her to tell her that.”
-- Dale East
This teacher, who wasn’t afraid to do things differently.
Andrea Gastmeier, who taught at Koepsell Elementary in and around 2008.
“She really encouraged me to believe in myself. I wasn’t the brightest student, and not a lot of people believed in me. However, Mrs. Gastmeier encouraged me to believe in myself -- and I went on to be on the honor roll in middle school through high school. She also did things her own way. She was a long-term substitute for a teacher who had a baby. When she first came in, I remember being vocal about her doing things differently. In turn, she reminded me that she was a different teacher, so things wouldn’t be the same. I was unsure of her at first, but she taught me that change isn’t always bad, and that people can be surprising. She also taught me that if you’re going to do something, stay true to you and do it your way. If you’re yourself, you will be perfect.”
-- Emily Sturgis
This educator who led the way, whether he knew it at the time or not.
Charles Cherry, who taught at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia from about 1985-1987.
“Mr. Cherry truly cared about his students. He saw qualities in us that others did not, and he pushed us out of our comfort zones to be the best we could be. He is part of the reason I became a teacher myself. I hope I am carrying on in his footsteps, finding the good in my students and pushing them to be great!”
-- Sara Cann
This inclusive teacher.
Ed Krass, who taught at Leonhard Elementary School in Southfield, Michigan around 1966.
“Ed was the best! He started the floor hockey league that lived for years and included hundreds and hundred of kids. He was inclusive before that was even a thing. He has stayed in touch with so many of us over the years. He’s now active on Facebook with us. He has done amazing work with The Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield. Ask any kid who grew up in Southfield from 1966 into the 21st century, and the answer will be Ed Krass!”
-- Jill Weinstein
And another submission for Mr. Krass: “He cared about each and every student, and made sure everyone felt special.” -- Joe Dallo
This teacher who just couldn’t leave his kids.
Mr. Hanzlik, who taught in Hollywood, Florida in the early 1990s.
“It is always apparent when teachers have a passion for what they do. Those teachers make each student feel special. (Mr. Hanzlik) made me feel like I was special, and he made learning fun. He was very sick my fourth- grade year, and I remember him having a conversation with the class about how sick he was. He told us he needed to take time off of work, but he loved us so much that he couldn’t leave us. If I’m not mistaken, he passed away shortly after our school year ended. At least, this is how my fourth-grade mind remembers it.”
-- Erika Utter
This teacher who instilled all the confidence.
Brenda Simpkins, who taught at Jefferson Davis Middle School.
“She taught me so much self-respect. She would never let you devalue yourself or anyone else. You were always, ‘all that and a bag of chips.’”
-- Brittany Richburg (Murrhee)
This hands-on educator.
Mark Phillips, who taught at Quarton Elementary in 1988-89 in Birmingham, Michigan.
“(He) brought his love for animals and nature into the classroom for hands-on learning experiences. He encouraged problem solving and inquisitiveness. His teachings would include lessons that are learned in real-world situations and (he’d) relate them visually to a story or assignment we had in class.”
-- Luke Pandzich
This gentle soul.
Ms. Singleton, who taught at Landis Elementary, 1991.
“I was a shy kid. Kindergarten was scary, but she made things so much easier. She was kind, gentle, caring, compassionate and fun.”
-- Whitney Williams
This teacher-turned-lifelong friend.
Ms. Flournoy, who taught at Silver Lakes Elementary in Miramar, Florida, 2002-04.
“She was such a caring person and always wanted the best for me. She was my first-grade teacher and (to) this day, we are still in contact. She checks up on me every now and then. Love her so much!”
-- Alexis Les
This woman who embodied cultural differences.
Mrs. Bilbery, who taught at AP Beutel Elementary School in Lake Jackson, Texas in or around 1970.
"Mrs. B was a caring and genuine person -- and though (the tough times), she would always take the time to ensure you ‘learned’ by using a methodology that worked for you! I recall her influence today. One day, we were studying Mexico and got to display collections of items we had or could find. Leather pouches with Azteca symbols, sombreros, piñatas, etc. Mind you, it was second grade! Mrs. B would share great stories of cultural differences ... to ensure that we really understood how important it was! With a big smile, she took the time to know how each of us learned, (whether that was) tactile, visual (or) audible. For that, she will forever be missed.”
-- Chuck Andrews
This teacher who brought magic to the classroom.
Mrs. Judy Feinman, who taught at Pines Lakes and Hawkes Bluff Elementary in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Mrs. Feinman taught with so much love. From phonics to art, reading and more, I remember her and think of her fondly always. Now as I prepare for my oldest to start kindergarten next year, I hope he’ll be as lucky to have a magical kindergarten experience, thanks to an unforgettable teacher.”
-- Nicole Maristany Krauss
This nurturing human.
Susan Williams, who taught at Deer Park High School in 1979.
“When she heard I had never had fried shrimp, she took me to San Jacinto Inn. She really nurtured me when my father passed away. She told me I’d make a great teacher someday. (She was) the first person I remember building me up.”
-- Nancy Ojeda
This teacher who made her students feel one of a kind.
Haise Currie, who taught at Kempner High School, but retired in 2016.
“Mrs. Currie just had a way with her students. I had her my senior year for English (1996-97). She had the difficult task of getting us to understand and actually like books such as ‘Beowulf.’ When we read George Orwell’s ’1984,' she said, ‘Remember the phrase, Big Brother is watching you.’ Boy, did I remember that. She would have us journal and then she would write us back. I never felt judged, and I always felt special -- even being one out of 150 of her students. I am a math specialist now. I have just completed my master’s degree and I am about to start my doctorate. I have a lot of education on how to be an educator. But Mrs. Currie’s lessons on how to treat students (are) still my most important lesson. Teach them the best way you know how, relate to them where they are at, and remind them that they are special to you. That is what I always have at the top of my mind when I teach.”
-- Heather (Hynes) Williams
This unforgettable educator.
Mrs. Nagy, who taught at Tomlinson School in Inkster, Michigan.
“She was my kindergarten teacher. I was, and still am, an emotional being. My mom walked me to school every day, and every single day, I cried when she left me at school. That teacher had such a caring way about her. I was so scared, but she would make me feel safe. I am 59 and still remember how she helped me get (past) those tears using art. She told my mom then that she saw artistic talents in me and that she thought my art projects were fifth-grade level. To this day, creativity -- be it drawing, painting, sewing, whatever creative project -- those things have helped me through life when my anxieties or emotions are overloaded. (Mrs. Nagy) changed my life for the good, teaching me how to find the strength through my talents, and I will never forget her for that.”
-- Debi Kozer
Not 1, but 3 teachers who were life-changing.
"ONLY ONE? I can think of at least three!
- Mrs. Cobbler, my fifth-grade teacher, Preston Park Elementary School, Roanoke City in the 1960s: She showed our class how to observe, explore and enjoy everything, especially nature!
- Mr. Winfred C. Shuping, seventh-grade history teacher, Breckinridge JHS: He explained current events to our class in ways we could understand, challenged us to compare the present to the past, and to think about and prepare for the future.
- Mr. Charles Arrington, 12th-grade English teacher, William Fleming HS 1974-76: He critiqued essays, themes, expanded my vocabulary and prepared me for Roanoke College."
-- Mary Sue Socky, a lifelong resident of Roanoke, Virginia, and a former teacher
The college instructor everyone needs.
Lori Anne Dickerson, who taught me in 2007-08, at Michigan State University (author’s submission!)
“Michigan State is a huge university, but I had so many incredible instructors and professors who I truly got to know and love. LA, as Lori Anne is affectionately called by many, was one of those teachers. I used to sit in her sports writing class with my notepad, trying to soak up every last word -- her experience was so impressive! -- but what will always stand out to me the most, is how she went to bat for me. I graduated with my degree in 2008, but without an immediate career-type job lined up. I knew I wanted to do something in sports journalism, but I wasn’t sure what. I’d been waiting tables, living with my parents just outside Detroit for a few weeks when LA called me on my cellphone. I don’t even remember how she got my number. When I couldn’t answer, she dialed my parents’ landline and introduced herself to my mom. She had a job for me, as it turned out, at the major newspaper in Grand Rapids, and so long as I could be there in the coming days for an in-person interview and a copy editing test, the gig was mine. It was technically an internship, but it was about the best job I could have asked for -- and paid remarkably well for “just an internship." More importantly, the sports editor believed in me because LA had vouched for me. Her word was strong. I moved to the west side of the state a few weeks later and I’ve remained in the news industry ever since. MSU is huge, but LA was one of those instructors who made it feel personal.”
-- Michelle Ganley (Ortlieb)
Are you feeling all the feels, wishing you had submitted your own favorite teacher and anecdote? It’s not too late! Do it here. We just might use your answers in a future online story.