Reflecting on One Teacher’s Influential K-12 Journey

Celebrating educators and all the influences, big and small, that they have on the students they teach.

Teachers have amazing effects on the lives of their students. In fact, I entered the profession due to a variety of influences from quite a few of them. Yes, my K-12 education saw a lot of theorems, life cycles, explorers, and Shakespeare, but it was the things that didn’t come from a textbook that stand out the most. I took a little trip down memory lane to pinpoint the first memorable teacher moment that came to mind when I reflected on each of my school-aged years. Many had an emotional component, and others were as simple as a great piece of timeless advice. What I found at journey’s end were the types of memories that I hope my students have taken with them upon leaving my classroom.

Kindergarten – Mrs. Riskin started and ended every day with a hug. This shy mama’s girl so needed that!

1st grade – Miss Abbott had 3-4 students at a time to her house for dinner; she served spaghetti. Talk about feeling special!

2nd grade – Mrs. Dubose’s sweet Southern charm made a mid-year move to the Tar Heel state much easier, and the fingerprint ornament we made that December still hangs on my parents’ tree.

3rd grade – Mrs. Bullock took us to the library, often. Books, books, and more books that year and forevermore.

4th grade – I spent about 3 months of this year in a neck brace, and Mrs. Bollinger put a quick end to any teasing that resulted from having to wear it. My hero!

5th grade – You didn’t mess with Mrs. Butler, and she was serious about diagramming sentences. This grammar girl got her first taste of a lifelong passion.

6th grade – Miss Link (later to become Mrs. Palumbo) taught us calligraphy in math class and shared this personal interest with us. To this day, my mom still has me write out the place cards any time she hosts a special event.

7th grade – Mrs. Bell told a story about a girl being shunned from her clique after scrimping and saving to purchase a pair of the group’s coveted Jordache jeans only to have them switch up the “cool kid” brand to Calvins. To this day, I don’t spend much on jeans, but I do cherish a close friendship with this amazing guidance counselor.

8th grade – Mr. Palumbo asked me to be a basketball statistician, and it’s something I went on to enjoy throughout high school. He picked me – awesome feeling!

9th grade – Bambi, the boa constrictor, was preparing to munch on a mouse as we sat in Mr. C’s biology class and watched the Challenger explosion on live TV. I learned that day that life goes on all around us, even in the face of tragedy.

10th grade – After a fellow student completed a how-to speech on applying make-up, Mrs. Keyser added that while too light of an application can easily be adjusted, it’s nearly impossible to fix too heavy. Advice I follow to this day.

11th grade – In English class, Mr. Paynter told me I was honor’s material. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

12th grade – Señora Seils told this by-the-book student that she talked too much! She created the classroom environment that let the true, talkative me enter and handed me my diploma that spring. The education world sadly lost a vibrant and inspiring teacher much too soon when she passed shortly after I graduated.

Every student goes on an educational journey that is marked by a wide variety of influences along the way. Taking the time to reflect on some standout moments from my own journey was eye-opening. I found that when a teacher believed in me, taught me a life lesson that didn’t come from a textbook, or shared a part of their own world with me, a lasting impact was made. It’s all about being personable, connecting with students, and allowing them to see the potential in themselves that they may not see on their own. Thank you to all my teachers over the years for making an impact and shaping my lifelong future in education.


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