Teacher with two young students

Originally Published May 1

Just as so many of us do every year during Teacher Appreciation Week, I think about how the teachers in my formative years set the stage for how I learn, teach and lead. I think about my kindergarten teacher and her assistant who, in my opinion, are the reasons why I excelled as a student. They would watch me speak, listen to me read, take notes, provide guidance on how I could improve, demonstrate what that improvement looked and sounded like, and then they made me practice again. They used these techniques until they, and I, didn’t need them anymore.   

The influence of my kindergarten teachers was evident even in my early teenage years. I remember sitting at my grandparent’s kitchen table trying to show my cousin (who was frustrated by her homework assignment) how to solve a math problem. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could not effectively help my cousin solve the problem until I understood why she was having difficulty in the first place. I would ask myself, “which step is the one where she always seems to get stuck?  What does that tell me about what she knows about that math symbol and how those numbers have to work together? What do I need to do to help her understand that idea?” As I reflect on that time, I can see how my thoughts and actions mirrored those of my kindergarten teachers. 

In the years that followed, I was blessed with other teachers who really stood out for their ability to accelerate learning. They are my inspiration and my role models, and my desire is that every student experiences the same greatness on their educational journey. I hope that each annual Teacher Appreciation Week is one where every student is able to honor a beloved teacher who positively transformed their life.