We all remember the horrible teachers. The ones who made us dread attending classes or soured our tastes for entire subjects. These figures remain in our memories for all the wrong reasons. But what about the good teachers? Or the great ones? Don’t we all have a few teachers we want to memorialize like Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society?
When I look back at my formative years, there are a handful of teachers I consider good, perhaps even great. When I close my eyes and remember those educators who made me want to learn, these are the people I see.
Mrs. Funston: first grade teacher
Mrs. Wilson: Enhanced Learning teacher
Don: Sunday school teacher, wilderness guide, mentor, and hiking companion
Mr. Vandiver: junior high PE teacher and wrestling coach
Mr. Taylor: art teacher
K: high school US history teacher and theater director
Herr Hansen: high school German teacher
From the youngest of my elementary days, to my senior year of high school. These teachers taught a wide range of topics and possessed vastly different personalities. Yet there are a few traits all seven of them had in common.
1. They believed in me. More than just me, they believed in all their students. They pushed us to achieve greatness because they believed we were capable of greatness. Because they saw the best in us, we wanted to be better.
2. They knew more than what they were teaching. They also knew how and why. When they presented a lesson, they included a motivation and a reason why we needed to know what they were teaching. They taught in ways that were engaging, entertaining, memorable, and relevant.
3. They taught more than school lessons, they also taught life lessons. When they were teaching, their goal was to do more than help us pass a test or get good grades. They were teaching us to live beyond the classroom.
4. They stepped away from the front of the classroom and got down to our level. They interacted with us. They sat in desks next to us. They gave us the idea that we could do what they do.
I would hope my peers see these teachers with the same reverence. When I was a student in their classes, previous students would often return to visit and thank them. When I got older, I was one of those returning students. And twenty years later, in one of my alumni groups, I still see praise of a couple of these teachers. These were the good ones.