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Happy New Year’s Eve, Teachers!

December 31, 2016

On this eve of a new year, let us celebrate by taking a moment to remember a favorite teacher, one who inspired us, or challenged us– and one who was not necessarily held high in our estimation until we matured enough to appreciate his/her efforts on our behalf.

In this spirit, I feature a few open letters of appreciation to teachers.

The first is by Taylor Elliot and was posted March 22, 2016, on Fresh U:

An Open Letter to My High School English Teacher

I would never have read Catcher in the Rye if it weren’t for your class. I would have never learned that it is okay to question things had it not been for your class. I would have never fallen so madly in love with writing had it not been for your class. I would have not have done a lot of things had it not been for your class. Everyone has their favorite teacher from high school, and everyone could probably spend hours talking about how amazing they were and all the small trinkets of advice they received from said teacher. What is particularly uncommon is when the teacher that tops your list of favorites falls a little lower on other people’s.

This is my letter to you, the teacher who inspired me to major in journalism.

To my favorite teacher,

I would have to say that after everything, I don’t think I have had the chance to properly thank you for your influence on me in high school, and ultimately on my college major. So please, if you are reading this, thank you. I can remember going into your English Literature class my junior year being extremely nervous due to everyone’s warnings about you being strict and quite frankly, a little scary. What I didn’t know was that by the end of the school year I would be walking out of your classroom learning so much and wishing I could take your class again. The first paper I wrote for your class was an absolute disaster. The prompt confused me, I wasn’t too sure of my thesis, and to top it off I used the word ‘you’ and with that you immediately took points off my paper. I don’t remember my exact grade for this first assignment, but I do remember thinking that this class was going to be such a pain. Everything changed when one day I decided to stay after school and ask you what I was doing wrong in my writing. This meeting, and countless others, led to be learning how to write and ultimately, how much I loved writing. For a year all I did was read novels and write essays on them. I never thought that out of this I would find my future college major.

You taught me to write my introduction last which sounded crazy to me at the time, but now makes complete sense. When I first start writing, I am usually so excited that my first paragraph is a jumble of words that is all over the place, but by the end my thoughts are planned out and organized. To this day, even though my writing skills have improved I still write most, if not all, of my introductions last because of a habit I learned from you. Honestly, there is a 90% chance that the intro for this article was written last. In your class I learned to never question or second-guess what I was writing about. You told me that if I could prove my point with evidence, then it was worth writing about. With this being said, I learned how to efficiently get my point across with words. Words can have different meanings or connotations and how I arrange those words affects the message I am trying to get across. I have learned the importance of this idea more since becoming a journalism major. Everything you have taught me about writing has overflown into my journalism classes.

Lastly, it is because of you that I fell in love with writing and ultimately decided to major in journalism. Over the course of one school year, I learned so much from you. Writing doesn’t have to be a hassle; in fact it can be very fun and rewarding. Evidence is the best way to tell the truth through writing. When writing a story, or trying to get a point across, there is no stronger proof than hard evidence; this lesson has helped me greatly in my journalism endeavors so far. You helped me build a strong foundation of fundamentals when it comes to my writing. I attribute my writing style to your class. In my articles, I look to tell a story using language, words, and evidence as devices to shine light on the truth I am trying to portray through the story. Without your class, I highly doubt that I would be majoring in journalism, I wouldn’t be writing this article if it weren’t for your class.

Thank you.

There is so much to thank you for, but I hope this article pinpoints the major lessons I took from your class and applied to my college life and future career path. I also hope this inspires students to look to their teachers for inspiration. There are talented teachers around you who will influence you in one way or another and you never know, one of them may just help you decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.

Next is a 2008 entry by Christina Jonsson:

A Letter to My Favorite Teacher

Dear Mr. Lagree,

Picture yourself back in Victor Primary School in 1993, and you may remember me.  My name is Christina Jonsson and I have no trouble remembering you as I look so fondly upon my time I spent in your class room as one of your third grade students.  For me it is especially easy to recall that year, because it was one of the best and most memorable and I have you to thank for it!  You left an enduring mark upon me and really helped to shape my ideas of what a truly great teacher should be.  You treated each of us as if we were adults and you believed in our potential for greatness.  You were always providing individual attention and yet you never made us feel as if any of us were being singled out.  You were fair and held us accountable for our mistakes and misbehavior, but I never resented you for reprimanding us if needed.  I always felt so comfortable in your classroom and to this day I believe, without a doubt, that you were one hundred percent invested in us and our education.

When I was younger, I always was fond of teachers that let us have fun; and you fit the bill in those days.  What I now realize is that the whole time I thought I was having fun, I was learning!  I remember when you introduced us to long division (and math was certainly not what I called fun), and you wrote out a long division problem across the entire white board. We thought you had lost your mind!  We were so eager to finish that problem and when we did we were so proud of what we had accomplished.  That day we had so much fun learning long division and we didn’t think twice about it.

As I reflect upon my days in your classroom, I remember your indelible sense of humor and enthusiasm for everything we were doing.  Even reading time, a moment in the classroom where students could so easily be distracted, was exciting.  I looked forward to reading time in your classroom, because you always picked out great books to share with us.  I remember silly afternoons spent with The Twits, hunting for ‘coons in Where the Red Fern Grows and I’ll never forget the Indian in the Cupboard coming alive for the first time.  You read with such passion and inflection and I never once became bored.

In your classroom, we laughed, we played and we learned; and we longed to learn.  You inspired each of us to be excited about learning and you respected that each of us had different abilities and ways of doing so.  I’ll never forget the sense of humor you infused into everything we did.  You made teaching seem so effortless and fun, and it is you and your classroom that has influenced me to follow in your footsteps.  Thank you for giving students like me such wonderful and meaningful memories to look back upon.

I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,

Christina Jonsson

The final letter comes from Zoe Weil of Common Dreams, posted June 15, 2012:

An Open Thank You Letter to Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Another school year is over, and there’s a good chance you haven’t been thanked for another year’s hard work. That might actually be quite an understatement. Not only may you have failed to receive real appreciation for your work, your salary and benefits may have been cut while your hours were increased. You may have had more students to teach and more requirements to fulfill. You may not even be sure you’ll be teaching next fall, depending upon budget cuts, even though you are a good and dedicated teacher.

It’s possible that you have had a few students thank you, tell you that something you taught them, did for them, helped them learn was important and meaningful and changed them and inspired them and meant the world to them. It’s also possible few students have taken the time to thank you, because they may be so stressed and frustrated by endless tests, long hours sitting in a chair learning things that don’t seem relevant and important to them, or by a couple of other teachers, administrators or fellow students who’ve demoralized, bullied, scared, or bored them to tears making them hate school despite all you have done.

So if you haven’t received the thanks you deserve, I want to thank you publicly now. And by “you” I mean those teachers who love to teach and do so with all their heart and soul to provide their students with what is important and necessary and inspiring and beautiful and meaningful and true and good and honest. I mean those teachers who care about kids and empower them and ignite their passions and help them achieve their big dreams. I mean those teachers who demand that their students question everything, including what they themselves teach, to ensure that they become the best critical and creative thinkers they can be. I mean those teachers who listen and care. I mean those teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach and who cannot help but impart that passion.

I want to thank you for doing the most important work of all – educating the next generation. The real hope for our world, for creating peace, for solving our entrenched problems, for developing sustainable, humane, and healthy systems in technology, farming, economics, production, transportation, defense, and so on, lies with you – how well you provide your students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation they need to be able to create such systems. And you deserve extra gratitude for doing what you can to make your curricula serve such ends when standardized bubble tests demand something else entirely from you and often hinder the greater goals for a truly educated populace that you aspire to provide.

Thank you for being willing to work long hours for modest pay and minimal status when you surely could be making more money with less stress and greater prestige. Thank you for buying supplies when the school ran out of money and extending yourself far beyond your job description to help and mentor your students outside of the classroom. Thank you for trying to figure out every day how to manage the needs of so many children and for loving the ones who are hard to love because they make your days so difficult.

Thank you for modeling patience, honesty, courage, perseverance, wisdom, responsibility, generosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning to the best of your ability each and every day in your classroom.

Most of all, thank you for everything you have done and will continue to do to create a better future. There is no other profession that so directly shapes the world of tomorrow. Thank you for teaching.

To my teaching colleagues around the nation and the world, and to those who support us via their advocacy, I wish you and yours a Happy 2017.

fireworks

____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

4 Comments
  1. KenS permalink

    Thank you for posting this – and Happy New Year to you!

  2. Happy New Year, dear MERCEDES!

    May you go from strength to strength in 2017!

    So many people look to you as the truth teller supreme, incorruptible and independent.

    I am proud of your many accomplishments

    Diane

    >

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Truth teller supreme, incorruptible and independent…. Yes, and these “thank you” letters are beautiful.

    Some time ago I received a letter from a person who was looking for his former teacher in grade five. He was approaching retirement from his work as an architect and community planner concerned especially with issues of social justice.

    The teacher he hoped to thank had died several years earlier. He sent the letter to me because I was in charge of the teacher’s estate. The letter included a photograph of his fifth grade class and a detailed account of a series of memorable lessons on the jury system in his fifth grade class. In a mock trial environment, his classmates had selected him to serve as the judge. He was grateful for the way she had taught him about procedural fairness and the concept of justice. He said that those lessons had a life-long influence on how he approached his work, including projects with American Indians and community development in urban centers.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: A Tribute to Teachers Everywhere | Diane Ravitch's blog

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