In our work to close the opportunity and skills gap, Schools That Can is well aware that we can not accomplish much without our beloved teachers. To end Teacher Appreciation Week and honor the amazing teachers within the Schools That Can network and beyond, here is a compilation of fond memories and experiences from the Schools That Can staff.
Bringing Social Studies to life
Mr. Pitch found ways to make learning really relevant and powerful. When we learned about WWII and the Holocaust, he brought in survivors from concentration camps to talk with the class and share pictures from the liberation of Auschwitz. He assigned projects that took time and foresight to complete. And he infused the class with a lot of fun and a little bit of sarcasm, which worked well for the adolescents he taught. Mr. Pilch was the first teacher to call me out for not putting 100% into a project but he also really showed me that he believed in me. I learned a lot from him as a growing young lady and also as a future teacher myself.
Casey Lamb, National Director of Growth
We loved the nature projects and activities
My 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Huber, helped instill a love of nature in me through various projects and team-building activities. I will never forget the unit we had on the Iditarod! Not only did we learn about the race, but we also followed mushers and write letters to them. Almost everything we learned had a nature component, and I am so grateful to Ms. Huber for exposing me to such opportunities!
Kate Del Priorie, Managing Director of Programs, STC NYC
Patience is a virtue — and we appreciate that!
In 12th grade, Physics was incredibly challenging for me. I had transferred to a new school after 10th grade, and had struggled in pretty much all of my classes since the transfer, but physics was really killing me. I remember busting my butt to do the homework and consistently asking for more time to do the in-class labs. Dr. Watt was extremely patient with me and granted me more time. During exams, I would actually cry, frustrated with how challenging I found the questions, despite all the work I put in. This teacher would give me all the extra time I needed. I remember him staying with me after school for 2 or sometimes even 3 hours a day to sit with me as I struggled through assignments. His wife (a teacher at the nearby middle school) would come by to pick him up to go home for the day, see me in the room with him, and knew the routine, so she would pull out papers to grade while we worked. During class, he found inconspicuous ways to make more stops at my desk to give tips on the lab experiment. He gave me so much of his time and tried so very hard to find other ways to explain the content to me. But he never gave me the answers. He always made me find them, or more accurately, stumble upon them, myself. I ended up passing the class with a B-, which was a huge accomplishment for me. Being in that class with him made me see that I could master the content, no matter how difficult it seemed at first. But that it required work and time and persistence. In my freshman year of college, I easily got through physics 101, and to this day, am still able to identify physics concepts at work around me.
Laurie Price, Executive Director, STC NYC
You keep us on our toes and prepare us for the real world
One of my greatest teachers was a professor from undergrad. She was and still is a woman of business. I remember my first day of class with her, she went over the syllabus and her expectations were high. She had an insane late policy, if you were late twice your grade dropped a full letter. However, when we began to work she was so free and exciting. She didn’t hold back with our class, she gave us her all as she expected to do every day. When I first stepped into the real world I had her voice in my head and I was so grateful that she taught me how to act as a professional and a creative being.
You help us find solutions…
Dr. Frances Spielhagen led our School-Wide Enrichment Program in high school, a program for students to do various additional projects, such as leading project based community service. Dr. Spielhagen challenged a group of us when I was a freshman to think about how we could help create a sustainable solution to food insecurity in our community – this led to a few of us founding Harvest House, a nonprofit community lunch program which still feeds hungry Sussex County residents today. Dr. S. taught us not to wait for adults to fix the world’s problems and to use our collective critical thinking and leadership skills to make concrete, long-lasting change in our community.
Erin Sweeney, Executive Director, STC Newark
…And the truth behind life!
Dr. McKay, the honors sophomore English teacher, made our books and readings come alive. He was the first person to introduce me to the art of narrative and the crafting of a story, something that has stayed with me and guided me since then. He taught me how to read between the lines, something I struggled with in high school, and without him, I would have never survived tough curriculums in college. He taught me how to write and think critically. And perhaps the most memorable experience was “Huckleberry Day” when we were told to go explore our school, go into the areas that we weren’t supposed to go, really be like Huck Finn and discover the truth behind life. It was that day I found a secret passageway into the depths of the school’s boiler system that led to a chair with a book where our janitors (and others who snuck away) would relax on their break. It was the day I realized that sometimes we must leave our world and comfort zone to really, truly explore the world around us until we really carpe diem.
Erin Sweeney, Executive Director, STC Newark
Because of you, we are more empathetic beings
Mrs. Rosenberger, my 11th grade American Literature teacher. She was super smart, incredibly warm, and really thoughtful about how she taught the class. For one unit, we were able to select an author whose life we wanted to research in addition to reading their work, and then we participated in a panel discussion, responding from the perspective of that author. I chose Alice Walker and the experience of learning her story and then putting myself in her shoes was life-changing for me.
Jennifer Husbands, Executive Director, STC Chicago
Teachers are amazing. We admire your humor, creativity, straightforwardness, high expectations, passion, and your unending belief in us, which helped us believe in ourselves. Whether you are a new teacher or seasoned veteran, here is our advice on how to continue being an exemplary educator:
- Continue to find ways for your own passions to show through your teaching, as well as your students.
- Always explore the ways to make your teaching as relevant to your students’ and their communities.
- Teachers can change lives! My experience in his classroom changed my view of myself, which, in my opinion, is even more powerful than the actual physics content that I learned.
- The best teaching tool in the world is your relationship with your students. Know who they are, what excites them, what frustrates them, what their aspirations are. If they know you love them and truly believe in them, you’ll be amazed at what they will accomplish!
To educators throughout our network and the world, we hope you have had a lovely teacher appreciation week. Thank you for being awesome.