There are tons of stories online about bad teachers, and teachers who do the wrong things, or act horribly in the classroom. Those stories are important to tell and to hear, and as humans, we’re curious about those terrible things, I think.
That said, there are far more amazing teachers in the world than bad apples, and I also love to tell and hear the tales of the hundreds of teachers who go above and beyond every single day.
Below, 14 people share stories of teachers who gained their respect in one fantastic instant.
14. No power plays here.
I had a professor once state that she doesn’t believe in trick questions. Students trick themselves up enough without the professor helping that along.
She never did put trick questions.
13. They make you feel special.
I went to a small charter school for middle school. Our English/literature teacher was brand new to teaching, if I remember correctly she was only 22 which seemed old at the time. She always did her best to be so cheerful and make learning fun.
But the thing that truly solidified her spot as my favorite teacher was that for every student’s birthday she would give you a personalized mini notebook. It was just a simple small composition notebook but she had filled the first couple pages telling me how much she loved having me as a student, how far she knew I would go, and other affirmations.
It seems small but as a 13 year old who had a crappy home life it made all the difference in how I acted the rest of the year.
12. He could admit when he was wrong.
Junior year of high school, English class. We were discussing a story we had read. One student (let’s call him Carl,) made a point. The teacher was dismissive and basically said Carl was wrong.
The next day, after we took our seats the teacher said, “Before we begin, I was thinking about what Carl said yesterday. I was wrong to dismiss it so quickly. Let’s take a look at that again.”
He then went on to repeat Carl’s point and initiate a conversation with the entire class. After the conversation, it became apparent Carl’s point was indeed off base, but I was impressed the teacher publicly owned his mistake and went down the path he should have.
11. Some heroes shave their heads.
When I was in the 1st grade my mother gave me one of MANY really awful haircuts. The first day back at school afterward the kids picked on me horribly. So much that I ran out and hid. The principal found me and we went back to the classroom and he asked me to wait outside for a minute while he talked to the class. He then walked me to his office and bought me a Coke.
The next day – first thing in the morning – we had an assembly with the entire school and he walked up on stage with his head shaved completely bald and talked about bullying and the like.
Some twenty years down the road he had retired and I ran into him at the local college. SHook his hand and said, “You probably don’t remember me, but,”
“yes I do,” he interrupted and said my name and the event.
The man was and is a hero in my eyes.
10. No textbooks here.
It was a professor, but she said she wasn’t going to have a textbook for the class. Basically, she didn’t respect the textbook representatives trying to take the pharma approach to force kids to buy an $170 access code.
Instant respect. You just had to show up to the lectures and she’d teach you what you needed to know.
9. You can’t judge a book by its cover.
I had a teacher in elementary school who was prone to outbursts. He had a short fuse, at least compared to every other adult I knew at the time. For instance, when several of us in class weren’t listening he’d throw a piece of chalk against the wall to get our attention.
Honestly, we just thought he was crazy.
A year or maybe two years later, the school had a talent show. Like a big one, in the gym, in front of everyone. One my classmates was really into music and wanted to play a drum solo. Our teacher had mentioned off-hand that he used to be in a band and played drums, so my classmate asked him (sort of dared, like kids often do with adults) to play a solo in front of the school.
And he did. He f**king rocked it.
But that’s not what made me respect him. Turns out the band he played for was a very successful, and at the time quite popular rock band. He left just before they became popular, because he wanted to be a teacher. He chose teaching kids over the chance at fame and fortune, and didn’t regret it.
8. A friend in need.
A math teacher went to the hospital several times to visit a student who had been seriously injured in an accident.
The teacher offered companionship, free tutoring, and genuine encouragement.
7. He was invested.
I had a physical education teacher who organised basketball, volleyball, handball and football tournaments, organised ‘olympic games’ for the local kids and taught us dancing on weekends.
On his own. Just for us kids, because we lived in a remote place without many activities and things going on. He was more than a simple teacher.
6. He used common sense.
Told us a joke about his name (before we could) and allowed us to eat during his classes “because kids your age can’t help being hungry all the time”, as long as we did it quietly. Great guy.
His whole attitude made all of us actually pay attention and do our best.
5. I hate that kids have to starve at school.
When I was a kid we had to purchase these red punch cards to get lunch at school. Unfortunately we didn’t have that much money so there were times where my punch card would run out and I wasn’t able to eat for a while until we got enough money to repurchase another one (why nobody in my family applied for assistance was beyond me).
I had one teacher who noticed I wasn’t eating every day and she would bring an extra sandwich and offer it to me whenever she saw that. I really didn’t understand how kind that was when I was a kid but obviously as an adult That was such an amazing gesture of kindness.
4. Because books are for everyone.
I remember my 5th grade teacher had every student circle one book from the Scholastic book fair flyer. When the day came for the fair if you didn’t go to the library to purchase that book for yourself, she would buy it with her own money to make sure every student got to take a book home.
I wouldn’t have had any books of my own if it weren’t for her.
3. She wanted to make them smile.
This will probably get lost, but I want to shout out this teacher of mine. She was our AP English Language teacher for our senior year of high school. On one of the first days in her class, she explained how she went from being a kindergarten teacher to a high school senior teacher.
She always saw off her cute and happy kindergarten kids, but as they grew up and they came back to visit her, a lot of them came to her troubled and dissatisfied with their lives. It made her real emotional about how people had treated these kids she loved so much, how she couldn’t afford to see kids so disconnected with life, and how she didn’t want them to suffer as they headed out towards college and their adult lives.
So she changed curriculums and started teaching seniors. If I remember right, it always came down to sending her kids off with a smile, prepping them for the real world.
I respect the hell out of her and she’ll always be one of my favorites. Truly like a mother to all her students.
2. When students succeed, teachers succeed.
I had a sociology professor who gave us a Do Not Fail Checklist. Complete and you were guaranteed to pass. I also had a high school Chem teacher who bet us all $100 that if we passed his class we would pass our first college chem class.
He was just really awesome all around- he told stories about traveling the world over breaks, got absurdly off topic to teach us random stuff, had a physics lab where we got to throw eggs at him, and occassionally we had a class where absolutely nothing got done because we were having a discussion.
He used to give out quarters for correcting him, or for anything done really well. He put up posters about his trips and gave us extra credit quizes about them because he said being observant was really important in chemistry. Actually there were a few really weird activities in that class- I will never forget the time he ate chalk to prove to us that it was the same stuff as in milk.
He was brilliant, hilarious, and just a really incredible human being.
1. She issued a wake up call.
Not take my sh%t. I was a pretty decent writer in school; able to pop stuff out pretty quickly that was superficial but sounded good.
The first time I had a teacher hand my work back pointing out that I managed to compellingly fail to say anything was sort of a slap in the face that I didn’t realize I needed.
I love all of these so much, and have so many warm memories of teachers myself.
What’s a way a teacher earned your respect? Tell us the story in the comments!