In the course of our lives, we encounter individuals who affect us profoundly and perhaps we alter their lives as well. In my first education class in college, the professor presented a critical question to me, inquiring why I was eager to teach. I recall writing, “I want to make a difference in one student’s life.” Days later, when he returned the sheet, he marked it boldly in red ink across the top of the page, stating clearly, “Not just one life, but many.” As I reflected upon this experience, fifteen years later, I registered the wisdom of his powerful words. Throughout the years, countless students approached me in various locations, including stores and subways, explicitly declaring how much I had influenced their lives.
Recently, as I shopped for sneakers, I met one of my former 12th graders. This young man, who is now twenty four years old and has painstakingly strived to obtain his Bachelor of Arts in Communication in spite of his learning disability, demonstrated his gratitude for the lessons he learned from me, by acknowledging, “You taught us everything about design & technology, even if we didn’t want to learn it.” What an amazing feeling to witness this powerful transformation in my lowest achieving student!
All these thoughts resurfaced as I contemplated the substantial influence of two remarkable teachers who impacted my life and played a prominent role in my career. I will be forever grateful to them and in turn I always aim to have a strong impact on my students as well. As a teacher, I have evidence that my teaching had far more reaching effects on students than the subject itself. So I will depart with a final thought that I expect will alter the way you view your role: “As teachers, we inspire a difference in students’ lives, not only in their ability.”