Principals, school administrators, teachers. Guides that show teens the beauty of education. Or, on the flip side, jailers. We all know those teachers that are fun and we enjoy being around; all the students love them. And we also all know that teacher that everyone tries to avoid, the one that when you see his/her class on your schedule, you know you will have a class to nap in. Teachers come and go; you like some, you hate others, but sometimes a teacher comes along and gives you more than just boring lectures. And those teachers impact a student’s lifetime.

The AP Bio Teacher

Many teenagers know about how legendary and killer AP Bio can be. It can be one of the most demanding and most challenging courses, and one some occasions, it’s been known to bring (almost) grown men to tears. Most teachers would just throw the curriculum at the students, expecting them to learn it on their own. Low scores are a norm in a class like this, but Sara Agha’s teacher was different. “Every time I would get a lower score in her class, she would pull me aside and encourage me to ‘keep working’”.

These words became a sort of mantra to Sara; they helped her get through the class and stuck with her. They gave her confidence because they showed that a teacher believed in her, and if her teacher believed, she knew she could succeed. Sara thinks that what her teacher did for her should extend to teachers everywhere. “If teachers make an effort to show that they believe in their students, they will have an amazing impact on them”.

The Chemistry Teacher

Cody Li of the Durham School of the Arts is at the top of his class. Being a very studious person, he got the best grades and just did school well, but he was never really interested in the subjects he took. Math was what he was best at, but he felt like it lacked importance because he didn’t learn about real life situations. However, when he took chemistry, he got hooked. Due to his teacher’s animated lectures and discussions, he was able to see the connections between math, science, and the real world. “I enjoyed his discussions a lot. The fact that he’s so easy to talk to and how knowledgeable of things he is, not just of chemistry, was a huge factor in him becoming a huge influence of my life.” Because of his teacher, Cody now knows what he wants to do in his future.

The English Teacher

Being a freshman is rough: feeling like you’ve been pretty much dumped into rooms with tons of kids your age is a melting pot of emotions. But Natalie Doan-Dunnum of the Durham School of the Arts had something to look forward to: English class. Her love of English made her new teacher’s course easy to enjoy, but what she got from that class was more than writing skills.

“I liked writing but I preferred just reading and annotating things because it was comfortable to me”, Natalie says. “I felt like my writing was not good enough, but even worse, that my voice wasn’t important enough to be heard.”  In her new class, there were many seminars and debates that all the students had to participate in, so Natalie had to get over her shyness. At first, she was unsure of herself, but her teacher kept encouraging her. These discussions helped her gain confidence in sharing her opinions, which transferred into her writing. “I learned that my opinion mattered and that I shouldn’t shy away so much”. Natalie’s teacher taught her that opening up was okay, and that it didn’t necessarily mean being completely vulnerable. “Honestly ,I think I grew up a lot in that class”.

The Humanities Teacher

Allison Ramirez of Oceana High School grew up in private schools, so when she was thrown into the jungle of a public high school, she didn’t know what to expect. She was bullied everyday in her private school, and since her only ideas of a public high school came from the media, she was quite worried about her future. “Bullies hanging people from their underwear and getting beat up physically”, Allison recalls. “I thought it was going to be the absolute worst.”

However, her freshman year at the school Oceana didn’t get off to a bad start. She made friends who understood her frustrating past, she started a Glee Club (because who doesn’t love to sing?). Allison was even nominated to go to a leadership workshop. Public school was starting to become something she enjoyed, but everyone knows high school isn’t perfect. With a bunch of hormonal teens together in a workshop over the weekend, there’s bound to be drama, and Allison was the target. Her workshop mates complained about her, and her teachers acted like she couldn’t do things right.

When she came back to school, it didn’t get much better (hormonal. grudge-holding teens, remember?). “I didn’t want to be stuck in another place where I was going to feel belittled … and that I would go home ready to weep in my pillows,” Allison says. “I wanted every day to be the last time I walked through these halls”.

Then…poof! Her fairy godparent appeared in the form of a 9th grade humanities teacher. He asked her if she was okay, consoled her, and told her the truth: “Teens can be mean.” He convinced her to stay at Oceana, and throughout her years there, her humanities teacher was always there for her to boost her confidence, to listen, and to encourage her. Allison became a different person, a good person, someone full of confidence that burst with creativity. “I guess you can say he’s a big part of my high school life. To one more year, Weinstein!”

The Calculus Teacher

Junior year is supposedly the toughest. Many students feel the pressure to take the most rigorous classes and have the most extracurricular activities. Gabe Dainotto was really starting to feel the heat. Going to a relatively competitive high school, he stacked his schedule with five AP classes. Of course, this loaded routine could get tiresome day after day, and Gabe started to rethink this system; he started to lack belief in it. What was the point of taking so many hard classes when he wasn’t even interested in most of them?

One of those unwanted APs was calculus. Gabe was never head over heels in love with math, but the class turned out to be more worthwhile than previously thought. Usually the class clown, Gabe was constantly being told by his calc teacher to get back to work, but when it was time for E-Sports, the video game club Gabe was the co-president of, the teacher leveled and played with them. “He showed me that there is a time for fun and games and there is time for work,” Gabe remembers. He was always supportive when Gabe needed it, as a friend and a teacher, and the teacher was young and easy to relate to, especially since they liked the same videogames.

More important, Gabe’s calc teacher had a different educational background: he went to a community college first and then a well-known university. The teacher was obviously happy with his own life, and he hadn’t followed the linear system of education. “He taught me you don’t need to be the smartest person, you don’t need to get into the best college, and you don’t need to have the highest income to be a good person.”

The Bottom Line: Teachers Are Incredible

Teachers, jailers, whatever you call them, you can’t deny the truth: they are a huge part of our lives. Some impact us in more ways than we can describe, and hopefully for the better. So instead of staring out of the classroom window wondering what you’re going to eat for dinner, maybe you should pay attention to the teacher and learn about life lessons along with that curriculum.

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