We all have those inspirational teachers to whom we owe so much. I have wanted to thank one of those teachers since I graduated high school almost a year ago. Last week, a group of us alumni was approached via Facebook by another teacher from my high school who was collecting 50 letters from 50 of my favorite teacher’s former students for her 50th birthday. What a perfect opportunity. Though I will keep that teacher’s name private, I am happy to share the letter I wrote in hopes that someone will see this and be inspired to thank a past teacher and express to that person how special being in his/her class was.
First, happy birthday! Your cells might be considered “over the hill,” but you are young at heart and as full of life as anyone I’ve ever met. In honor of this important birthday, I want to tell you how special you are to me.
Having had the opportunity to be in your class has affected me deeply as both a student and an individual. I’ve had a lot of favorite teachers and continue to find more in college, but you stand out as the most extraordinary teacher I’ve ever had and, I firmly believe, I will ever have. What makes you extraordinary is your ability to inspire a love of learning in general, not necessarily a love of the subject you teach. I remember coming home after biology classes and telling my mom and dad what I learned that day, whether they wanted to hear it or not. It was like I was in first grade again because I found the material, not only relevant to everyone, but interesting in the way you presented it to us. I was excited to learn because you made it relevant. You were able to satisfy our need as students to know the “so what” that so many teachers leave out of their lessons.
You go above and beyond, pushing teaching to a new standard. I remember in the first week of school last year, you explained what “minute sketches” are and the importance of learning to you. It made me excited and honored to be in a class taught by someone who not only loves biology, but loves learning, and is passionate about teaching both of those things. I can guarantee that I will always remember what a nephron looks like, and the parts of a “perfect” flower, where the pancreas is, why we need to finish all the antibiotics prescribed by our doctor, the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems, and the ins and outs of the cell cycle. I learned those things, not just for the test, but for life. I know this is not only true for me. As much as I disliked science before, when a B average was good enough for me, you made me really love biology. I don’t know how, but you did. Though I’m not a biology major, I will continue to love biology because it’s helped me to better understand my world and my body. To this day, I can help my college friends who are animal science majors and biology majors, etc. with their homework assignments on photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
What distinguishes you from other teachers is that you truly care about your students, not their grades or their performance in your class necessarily, but truly care about them as human beings. You care enough to devote your time and energy to empowering them to pursue learning as more than a requirement, but a lifelong process. For me, you made it easy to focus on the learning aspect and with that came the success reflected in my grades, while in most classes it is hard to focus on anything but the grade. You have so much to give to us in only a small window of time, but you make it count. All of your students are inspired by your commitment to learning and your commitment to wellness. You will always be that teacher to me; the one who changed our lives inside and outside of the classroom.
I believe that teaching as a profession goes severely underappreciated, especially because teachers are the ultimate givers. I hope that every day, not just today, you feel how much you are appreciated by your former students and even your current students. I know for a fact that you’ve made a difference in lives of so many people, those who tell you and those who don’t, and each one will carry what they’ve learned from you for the rest of their lives. The day you told me in Mrs. Cox’s office that I was “one of your favorites,” I knew I had to tell you that you’re one of my favorites too. Thank you, Teacher. Happy birthday! Have a bowl of ice cream today, you deserve it and your hypothalamus will be able to regulate your blood-glucose levels for a special occasion!
Love always and forever,
PAHS- Class of 2012 & VT- Class of 2016
A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.
~Horace Mann (a revolutionary educator like yourself)
P.S. I hope work with the textbook for IBO is coming along well! You’ll get to influence students’ learning all over the world. They couldn’t have picked a better person for the job!