Tuesday marks National Teacher Appreciation Day, so leading up to the big occasion, we had to ask: Who was your favorite teacher, growing up? What made that person so special and memorable?
The responses came pouring in -- and they were so heartfelt and touching.
We’ve compiled a good handful, in hopes that perhaps the mentioned educator will get some recognition (so TAG that person if you recognize a name or school district!), and perhaps to serve as some inspiration: for future teachers, parents who are having to homeschool their children because of the current coronavirus pandemic -- or maybe just to put a smile on your face. Teachers are so good.
Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for clarity, length and grammar. Readers could choose how many specifics they’d like to share, so some educators have first names and/or courtesy titles provided, others don’t. Some mention a geographical region, others do not. Happy reading!
This teacher who just couldn’t leave his kids.
Mr. Hanzlik, who taught in Hollywood, Florida in the early 1990s.
“It is always apparent when teachers have a passion for what they do. Those teachers make each student feel special. (Mr. Hanzlik) made me feel like I was special, and he made learning fun. He was very sick my fourth- grade year, and I remember him having a conversation with the class about how sick he was. He told us he needed to take time off of work, but he loved us so much that he couldn’t leave us. If I’m not mistaken, he passed away shortly after our school year ended. At least, this is how my fourth-grade mind remembers it.”
-- Erika Utter
This teacher who instilled all the confidence.
Brenda Simpkins, who taught at Jefferson Davis Middle School.
“She taught me so much self-respect. She would never let you devalue yourself or anyone else. You were always, ‘all that and a bag of chips.’”
-- Brittany Richburg (Murrhee)
This hands-on educator.
Mark Phillips, who taught at Quarton Elementary in 1988-89 in Birmingham, Michigan.
“(He) brought his love for animals and nature into the classroom for hands-on learning experiences. He encouraged problem solving and inquisitiveness. His teachings would include lessons that are learned in real-world situations and (he’d) relate them visually to a story or assignment we had in class.”
-- Luke Pandzich
This gentle soul.
Ms. Singleton, who taught at Landis Elementary, 1991.
“I was a shy kid. Kindergarten was scary, but she made things so much easier. She was kind, gentle, caring, compassionate and fun.”
-- Whitney Williams
This teacher-turned-lifelong friend.
Ms. Flournoy, who taught at Silver Lakes Elementary in Miramar, Florida, 2002-04.
“She was such a caring person and always wanted the best for me. She was my first-grade teacher and (to) this day, we are still in contact. She checks up on me every now and then. Love her so much!”
-- Alexis Les
This woman who embodied cultural differences.
Mrs. Bilbery, who taught at AP Beutel Elementary School in Lake Jackson, Texas in or around 1970.
"Mrs. B was a caring and genuine person -- and though (the tough times), she would always take the time to ensure you ‘learned’ by using a methodology that worked for you! I recall her influence today. One day, we were studying Mexico and got to display collections of items we had or could find. Leather pouches with Azteca symbols, sombreros, piñatas, etc. Mind you, it was second grade! Mrs. B would share great stories of cultural differences ... to ensure that we really understood how important it was! With a big smile, she took the time to know how each of us learned, (whether that was) tactile, visual (or) audible. For that, she will forever be missed.”
-- Chuck Andrews
This teacher who brought magic to the classroom.
Mrs. Judy Feinman, who taught at Pines Lakes and Hawkes Bluff Elementary in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“Mrs. Feinman taught with so much love. From phonics to art, reading and more, I remember her and think of her fondly always. Now as I prepare for my oldest to start kindergarten next year, I hope he’ll be as lucky to have a magical kindergarten experience, thanks to an unforgettable teacher.”
-- Nicole Maristany Krauss
This educator who made you want to learn.
Faith Taylor, who taught at Fischer Elementary School in Taylor, Michigan.
“What I loved most about her was, she was hard on you, but she was fair. A lot of kids feared her, but she never had that effect on me. I loved being in her class. She made you want to learn. She was my sixth-grade teacher, and when I went in to junior high, I would go back and visit her and help her grade papers. She made such a huge impact that I wanted to become a teacher. When I graduated high school, I went to college to become a teacher, but I was not able to finish due to financial issues. I am 47 years old, and to this day, I still keep in touch with her. She is just an all-around great human being, and the best teacher I ever had. She will always hold a special place in my heart.”
-- Monica Johnson
This nurturing human.
Susan Williams, who taught at Deer Park High School in 1979.
“When she heard I had never had fried shrimp, she took me to San Jacinto Inn. She really nurtured me when my father passed away. She told me I’d make a great teacher someday. (She was) the first person I remember building me up.”
-- Nancy Ojeda
This teacher who made her students feel one of a kind.
Haise Currie, who taught at Kempner High School, but retired in 2016.
“Mrs. Currie just had a way with her students. I had her my senior year for English (1996-97). She had the difficult task of getting us to understand and actually like books such as ‘Beowulf.’ When we read George Orwell’s ’1984,' she said, ‘Remember the phrase, Big Brother is watching you.’ Boy, did I remember that. She would have us journal and then she would write us back. I never felt judged, and I always felt special -- even being one out of 150 of her students. I am a math specialist now. I have just completed my master’s degree and I am about to start my doctorate. I have a lot of education on how to be an educator. But Mrs. Currie’s lessons on how to treat students (are) still my most important lesson. Teach them the best way you know how, relate to them where they are at, and remind them that they are special to you. That is what I always have at the top of my mind when I teach.”
-- Heather (Hynes) Williams
This wise woman.
Mrs. Carolyn Kracht, who taught at Pare Elementary in St. Clair Shores in 1973-74.
“(I’ll always remember) her unique teaching style of allowing everyone to work at their own pace, teaching us integrity, and how to be accountable to our own selves.”
-- Cindy Tomczyk
This unforgettable educator.
Mrs. Nagy, who taught at Tomlinson School in Inkster, Michigan.
“She was my kindergarten teacher. I was, and still am, an emotional being. My mom walked me to school every day, and every single day, I cried when she left me at school. That teacher had such a caring way about her. I was so scared, but she would make me feel safe. I am 59 and still remember how she helped me get (past) those tears using art. She told my mom then that she saw artistic talents in me and that she thought my art projects were fifth-grade level. To this day, creativity -- be it drawing, painting, sewing, whatever creative project -- those things have helped me through life when my anxieties or emotions are overloaded. (Mrs. Nagy) changed my life for the good, teaching me how to find the strength through my talents, and I will never forget her for that.”
-- Debi Kozer
This teacher who doesn’t miss a beat.
Madelyn Cimaglia, who taught at Hoelscher Elementary in 1990.
“The way she truly cared about all of her students (was incredible). At the time, my father was going through some very difficult health issues, and Ms. Cimaglia had us writing in our daily journal, which a lot of teachers do, but she would actually respond to us via the journals. She was our own personal diary, and it helped me get through some very tough times. I kept up with her all throughout the rest of my school years, with visits to my old elementary school, but lost touch with her around high school. My best friend and I ran into her a few years ago (we’re now in our late 30s) and we debated whether or not she would remember us, so we hesitantly walked up to her and said, ‘We’re not sure if you remember us, but ...’ (and) she cut us off and said both of our full names without even thinking twice -- followed with, ‘Of course I remember you both!’ A couple of weeks later, she sent us pictures of short stories we had written in the fifth grade. She still has them, to this day.”
-- Hilda Escobar
Not 1, but 3 teachers who were life-changing.
"ONLY ONE? I can think of at least three!
- Mrs. Cobbler, my fifth-grade teacher, Preston Park Elementary School, Roanoke City in the 1960s: She showed our class how to observe, explore and enjoy everything, especially nature!
- Mr. Winfred C. Shuping, seventh-grade history teacher, Breckinridge JHS: He explained current events to our class in ways we could understand, challenged us to compare the present to the past, and to think about and prepare for the future.
- Mr. Charles Arrington, 12th-grade English teacher, William Fleming HS 1974-76: He critiqued essays, themes, expanded my vocabulary and prepared me for Roanoke College."
-- Mary Sue Socky, a lifelong resident of Roanoke, Virginia, and a former teacher
The college instructor everyone needs.
Lori Anne Dickerson, who taught me in 2007-08, at Michigan State University (author’s submission!)
“Michigan State is a huge university, but I had so many incredible instructors and professors who I truly got to know and love. LA, as Lori Anne is affectionately called by many, was one of those teachers. I used to sit in her sports writing class with my notepad, trying to soak up every last word -- her experience was so impressive! -- but what will always stand out to me the most, is how she went to bat for me. I graduated with my degree in 2008, but without an immediate career-type job lined up. I knew I wanted to do something in sports journalism, but I wasn’t sure what. I’d been waiting tables, living with my parents just outside Detroit for a few weeks when LA called me on my cellphone. I don’t even remember how she got my number. When I couldn’t answer, she dialed my parents’ landline and introduced herself to my mom. She had a job for me, as it turned out, at the major newspaper in Grand Rapids, and so long as I could be there in the coming days for an in-person interview and a copy editing test, the gig was mine. It was technically an internship, but it was about the best job I could have asked for -- and paid remarkably well for “just an internship." More importantly, the sports editor believed in me because LA had vouched for me. Her word was strong. I moved to the west side of the state a few weeks later and I’ve remained in the news industry ever since. MSU is huge, but LA was one of those instructors who made it feel personal.”
-- Michelle Ganley (Ortlieb)
Are you feeling all the feels, wishing you had submitted your own favorite teacher and anecdote? It’s not too late! Do it here. We just might use your answers in a future online story.