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Educator Development

Unforgettable Educators: Stories That Illuminate the Power of Teaching

At Participate Learning, we celebrate and honor teachers and educators every day, but we’re particularly fond of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6–10, 2024), which gives us a more formal reason to acknowledge their life-changing work! We know you work tirelessly to educate and inspire your students. This dedicated week allows communities, schools, and students to express gratitude for all the ways you enrich our lives, inspire our minds, and shape our futures.

Our Participate Learning staff also wanted to celebrate and recognize the impact our own memorable teachers have made on us through the years. These educators opened our eyes to the wider world, fostered our love of learning, and helped us have fun along the way.

Get inspired for Teacher Appreciation Week 2024 with this collection of staff stories about teachers who made lasting impacts on our lives!

On teachers who showed us the world

My first-grade teacher, Mr. Thompson, was the best storyteller. He was raised Amish and learned dozens and dozens of fables and stories that he shared with us daily. Most of the stories were set in nature, involved mischief, and always had hilarious punchlines. 

He connected learning to the world I already knew and helped me understand how things worked. He would take us for long nature walks around the school campus to identify plants. We cooked and baked in a small classroom kitchen. He took us to a maple sugar shack owned by his parents, who remained in the Amish culture. On this trip, we learned about the process of boiling down maple sap to make sugar, but we also learned about Amish customs and traditions. 

The sugar shack was about 10 miles from school—but offered an amazing opportunity for cultural exchange. He was the first teacher who helped me to begin to see that local is global.

—Alison LaGarry-Cahoon

Mrs. Landis was my 9th-grade World History teacher. She was very strict and taught lecture-style, but I learned so much from her that year. She is the one who really opened up my eyes to the world outside of my small town in Virginia. She often would show us pictures from her travels as she discussed various topics and locations. She inspired me to study abroad in Spain between my junior and senior years of high school. I remember writing her letters, and sending her pictures of places, statues of historic people, etc., that I had learned about in her class. I am still in touch with her today. 

—Kristen Ellis

On teachers who made learning fun

Mrs. Potts was an amazing teacher, and those early elementary school memories with her are truly treasured. Her teaching style was so interactive and fun, making learning an absolute blast. 

One thing that stood out about her was how she brought the arts into our lessons. She is a talented singer and played many different instruments, and she always found ways to incorporate music into our classroom. Plus, Mrs. Potts was also a certified Jazzercise instructor, and we couldn’t wait for our dance party days at school! Those moments were pure joy, and they brought our class together in such a special way. Mrs. Potts’s passion for teaching left a mark on me that I’ll always remember fondly.

—Abby Huston

The teacher who had the most impact on me was my mother! She taught English at my high school, and I was lucky enough to have her as my teacher twice! I’m a little biased, of course, but she really was the best—she was named the South Carolina Teacher of the Year in 1987! She was knowledgeable and patient, and she expected the best from all of us, yet she was fun and creative as well. I’m so grateful I was able to be in her class.

—Dana Campbell

My favorite teacher of all time was Susan Murphy. She made learning SO FUN! She taught us about the whole world and made it engaging and interesting. She sang songs, read to us, and made us each feel seen and valued. I became a teacher because of HER! 

—Maggie Murphy

On teachers whose love of their subjects was infectious

Mr. Maggs always showed the most support and appreciation for his students. He didn’t just teach English; he nurtured a love for it within his students. Mr. Maggs went beyond the curriculum, recognizing the potential in each of us and pushing us to excel in all our endeavors. 

—Paige Hicks

Francisco J. Peñas-Bermejo from the University of Dayton was my Spanish professor in my second semester of college. The semester before, I didn’t have the best experience in my Spanish class with a different professor, and I was planning to stop studying Spanish after this class, which would be the last one required to get a minor in it. Francisco was a fantastic teacher whose passion for teaching and for the Spanish language was evident. He was caring, kind, and patient with his students. He ended up motivating me to study abroad in Spain and then to end up majoring in Spanish Education! 

—Kelli Finch

[Dr. Moose] was my American Studies teacher, and she gave me such a passion for reading stories about real people. I will never forget the way that, when you talked to her, she gave you her singular focus and full attention. I had never before, nor have I since, had a teacher who cared so deeply about what I had to say or about making me feel seen. 

—Paula Rock

Ms. Smeltzer taught at my high school for 30 years before retiring in 2012. We were not the easiest class to teach, but I distinctly remember how she made us feel each time we entered her classroom. She was inspirational to us and challenged our thinking. Some of the books I read in her class are still some of my favorites today!

—Kimberly Perez

Thank you to all of the educators in the Participate Learning Network! Your dedication to your students inspires our work each day, and we couldn’t be more grateful for all that you do. Share your own memories of teachers who made an impact on you via social media by using the hashtags #UnitingOurWorld and #ThankATeacher this Teacher Appreciation Week.

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