Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week! Teachers deserve appreciation for many reasons; they sacrifice their needs for the needs of students’, have the biggest hearts, and devote their lives to helping kids develop in ways that will make the world a better place. As I was researching stories to share in celebration of the week, I found numerous reminders of why educators are some of the kindest and most wonderful people around. Check out these “feel-good” videos and stories of teachers going above and beyond for their students.
- Building Strength, Producing Smiles: Elementary school student Dylan Snyder has a serious heart condition that, previously, has prevented him from participating in sports and regular phys-ed classes. Dylan’s PE teacher, Mr. Bart, wanted to give Dylan the opportunity to exercise and build his strength, so Bart began providing Dylan one-on-one PE lessons full of running, hockey, and fun games. Over the course of three years, the two have become friends and bonded over their mutual love for NASCAR racing. Bart even built Dylan his own personal racecar so he can move around in style. Even though doctors have finally deemed Dylan’s heart strong enough to compete with other students in PE classes, Dylan still has workouts regularly with Mr. Bart.
- Delivery Day: Heidi Robinson, a transitional kindergarten teacher from Livermore, California, has gone the extra mile (literally!) to make sure her students’ love for reading has continued growing during the pandemic. Every two weeks, Robinson has been preparing reading packets for her students and delivering them to their homes (at an appropriate distance). On top of that, she has taken time to hold virtual, live-online phonics classes for her students. Robinson felt compelled to keep the love of reading alive for those in her class. “The most important job I have is making sure they love school, they feel important, and their voices are counted,” Robinson says.
- Lessons Through the Porch Door: Quarantine has showcased teachers’ abilities to care for their students well, even from a distance! Math teacher Chris Waba received an email from a student who was struggling with her math homework─a student who also happened to be Waba’s neighbor. He decided to pick up his whiteboard, go over to her house, and instruct the student through the glass door on her porch. This story is the perfect example of a teacher who goes the extra mile for his students.
- Piano in a Pandemic: Personally, I have seen the effects of teachers exceeding expectations in my family. My former piano teacher, Patti Kuhns, teaches my younger brother Joshua piano weekly. Kuhns wanted to continue giving students stability amidst an unstable time, so she has been holding virtual piano lessons via FaceTime for her students. “I appreciate her giving lessons because I get to keep learning piano, even if we can’t be together! She is finding creative ways to give lessons, even though she doesn’t really have to,” Joshua says. Mrs. Patti, if you are reading this—the Whitaker family appreciates you.
- Teaching from the Heart: The depth of teacher Nicholas Ferroni’s heart shows through him saying, “There’s no teacher in the world that should say, “I don’t care if you’re depressed or upset, I need you to do well on this test.” Ferroni noticed that something wasn’t right with his student George Hued, so Ferroni decided to follow his heart and see what was going on behind the scenes. He discovered that Hued and his family had been evicted from their home, and Hued’s mother, Melanie Robinson, had also lost her job. Ferroni started a GoFundMe page for the family where he was able to surprise the family with over $5,000 to make sure they could pay rent. Ferroni has also been honored by the United Nations as a “Champion for Change” for teaching his students about gender equality.
- Teaching Standards Through Song: Michael Bonner, a second-grade teacher from Greenville, North Carolina, teaches in a poverty-stricken area where many of his students have difficult home lives and some are even homeless. Bonner knew he would have to use unconventional, relatable methods to reach his kids, as poverty has its way of disrupting the brain. Bonner turned to music to teach kids their standards (which are learning goals created by the state for each grade level). With Mr. Bonner’s help, the kids are writing their own lyrics and creating music videos. The original video of Bonner’s class went viral, and he says the video is “more than just dancing; it’s a celebration of the fact that this school is making a change and turning a corner.” My favorite part of the linked video (2:40) is where Bonner’s students say, “Mr. Bonner taught me that I am smart. Mr. Bonner taught me I am strong. Mr. Bonner taught me that I am cool, and I want to be a president when I grow up.” Ellen Degeneres found the video heartwarming, and surprised Bonner with a $25,000 check for his school, along with new technologies to make videos.
- An Act of Love: In times of uncertainty, special needs students may not understand why the world is much different than usual. During quarantine, teacher Contessa Hubbard Bass has taken extra measures to make sure her special needs students’ feel familiarity in times of uncertainty. Her student Demarion Pittman can’t see well due to a traumatic brain injury, but he can hear—so Bass decided to read to Pittman (in the rain!) while practicing social distancing. When asked, “What are you doing here?” Bass had a simple answer: “love.” One of the most comforting presences’ in the whole world is a teacher who knows how to love well.
- Small Actions Make Huge Differences: These four stories share how some of the world’s most influential individuals—from Les Brown to Bill Gates—overcame personal struggles because of small actions their former teachers took. The tears were flowing as I read how actress Emily Blunt recalls her stutter as a child that caused her to struggle with holding simple conversations. Blunt speaks of how a junior high school teacher encouraged her to try out for the school play. Participation in the play enabled Blunt to overcome her fear of speaking and propelled her into an immensely successful career as a world-renowned actress. Maya Angelou credits a teacher, Mrs. Flowers, for helping Angelou “find her voice again.” At a young age, Angelou experienced intense abuse from a family member, leaving her in a reclusive shell. Mrs. Flowers introduced Angelou to artists like Frances Harper and writers like Emily Dickens that influenced Angelou to find her voice; in doing so, Angelou became one of the most powerful poets and civil rights activists in the world. I think this article proves that the lessons teachers offer us often surpass the typical four-wall classroom.
- Workouts for the Win: Local Hixson phys-ed teacher Aaron Wood decided to continue PE classes during quarantine. Wood has posted themed, kid-friendly workout videos (as a Disney-lover, I was impressed with the creativity of his Disney video) on YouTube that are accessible in the living room. The classes are perfect for students needing a brain break throughout their remote school day. Thousands of kids across the country have started taking PE with Coach Wood, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness in making sure kids have fun ways to stay active!
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is quoted as saying, “A good teacher is like a candle; it consumes itself to light the way for others.” As these stories show, teachers are some of the most selfless, passionate, and kind humans on the face of the planet. There are numerous other stories just like the ones I shared of teachers going above and beyond to care for students. To teach is to touch a life forever; if you are a teacher and are reading this, THANK YOU for all that you do!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.