Thank a Teacher Who Changed Your Life

Kevin Kelly – co-founder of Wired – has offered collections of “unsolicited advice” on his last few birthdays. He turned 70 this year, and while reading this year’s list over breakfast this morning one of his suggestions brought me up short.

Thank a teacher who changed your life.

I sat for a moment, reflecting on how incredibly fortunate I’ve been.

Mrs. Tanizawa and Mrs. Hurtado (née Yoon), who taught me – through the lens of hindsight – that there’s more than one way to hold students to high standards and great expectations.

Mrs. Kemp, who was living proof that “playing with computers” could be a living. I can still see that 7th grade class room in my mind’s eye – desks on one side, Apple computers on the other. Her choice to “retire” from industry and teach is one I will be forever grateful for.

Mr. Barron, who accepted a freshman into an elective course for 3rd and 4th year students, making it clear that if I stayed my work would be held to that standard. And who showed a bunch of over-confident teens that when arguing a case in front of a judge, confidence only gets you so far. And that teams can go further than they realize. I think of him anytime I see a red marker pen, or someone mentiones Chester A. Arthur.

Mr. Klevos, who imagined my surname might be french, and found ways to blend literature and the arts in ways that deepened my appreciation for both.

Mrs. Wilkoff, who made European history about more than the wars. And who reminded me, in a moment of candor in the classroom, that teachers are first and foremost “just people.” I thought of her on my first visit to Prague, standing at the window of the famed defenestrations. If learning is what you remember years later… I learned.

Mr. Cullinane, who was a teacher, a scientist, and a coach. He couldn’t help but be all of those things all of the time, and his students reaped the benefits.

Mr. Douglass, who always graciously accepted the lead roles in our in-class Shakespeare readings – and who insisted that plays were meant to be heard if they couldn’t be seen.

Randy Hyde, and Dr.’s Molle and Payne, each of whom had disproportionate impact on my undergraduate studies.

And while I don’t think I was ever her student in a classroom setting, this list would be woefully incomplete if it didn’t include my mom. You may have retired, but you’ll never stop being a teacher.

The words “thank you” are not near enough.