Where would you be today if you’d never met your favorite teacher? Think of all the valuable lessons you wouldn’t have learned, or all the wonderful experiences you would have missed. Teachers open doors to opportunities. They inspire kids to see what’s possible. And, to many children, they give support and guidance when things get tough.

I’m fortunate to have had many great teachers throughout my life who have challenged me to think bigger and to persevere. My mother is one of them. She has been a teacher most of her adult life, and she strove to further her own education by pursuing a Ph.D. while working and raising four children. She taught me the value of persistence and of pursuing your dreams no matter what else gets in the way.

My 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Weiner, taught me the meaning of the word “hypothesis.” A word that holds so much intrigue that it still fascinates me to this day, and I use it whenever I’m confronted with the unknown. He taught me the value of inquiry and exploration. He also taught me the meaning of the word “flatulence,” so obviously he taught me a bit about the value of humor as well.

In graduate school, Professor Williams taught me the importance of respectful debate and communication. You can defend your ideas while respecting those of people who disagree with you. That’s a hard one to remember, but one that I keep going back to time and time again. And, while I’ll never agree with Professor Williams on some topics (George Clooney is America’s greatest actor, really?), I have to appreciate the spirit and energy he brought to the classroom every day. He really helped his students understand why they were there.

Now that I work in the education field and have a child of my own, I’m even more grateful for all the opportunities my teachers have given me. As we look forward to celebrating National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States next week, I’m especially grateful for the opportunities my son’s teachers have given him this year, his first at Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in Washington, D.C.

This week, he and his classmates took a field trip to remember: They went bowling at the White House! If that weren’t thrilling enough, they also met its most famous resident, President Barack Obama, who happened to be showing National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples around town.

For a 5-year-old kid living in D.C., meeting the President of the United States is like meeting an All-Star Basketball player or a movie star, and it’s all due to the dedication of his teachers and the support of an active parent community that made the field trip possible. I’m thankful for my son’s teachers because I know by providing him with experiences like this they’re instilling in him a lifelong passion for learning. Plus, he got to meet the President! How cool is that?

In his remarks this week about Teacher Appreciation Week, President Obama recalled his most memorable teacher:

“The first time she called on me, I wished she hadn't. In fact, I wished I were just about anywhere else but at that desk, in that room of children staring at me,” he said.

“But over the course of that year, Ms. Hefty taught me that I had something to say – not in spite of my differences, but because of them. She made every single student in that class feel special.”

That’s what good teachers do. They make every single student feel special. That’s what my best teachers did for me. That’s what my son’s teachers did for him and his classmates this week. Thank you.

What have your best teachers done for you? Don't forget to #ThankATeacher.


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