This past weekend, I went to my niece’s high school graduation. Because the school had such a small graduating class, the ceremony was very personal.
It was an emotional thing to see all the graduates so filled with hope and promise. So ready to take on the world. And to see how much they appreciated their teachers.
In the valedictorian speech (done by three students together), each and every teacher at the school was acknowledged. How beautiful to hear the impact, many times unintentional, that these teachers had on their students.
And afterwards, I thought about the teachers who have impacted my own life.
I remembered Mrs. Wilson, who, even though I was a high school sophomore, treated me like an adult. She signed my papers with her first name when she graded them. She complimented my poetry and told me she looked forward to reading my essays. She predicted I’d be a writer.
I thought about Mrs. Condon, and how she gave me a love of vocabulary by having us learn words that, as a high school senior, I thought I’d never use. Words like gregarious. And mollify. And leonine. Words I still remember. She had us study paintings, too, and it was in her class that I learned to appreciate art for the first time.
A teacher can do that…open up worlds you didn’t know existed.
And they can give confidence where there wasn’t any before.
A teacher can challenge. And inspire. And encourage.
A teacher can change a life.
Not every teacher is a teacher by profession, either.
A teacher is the mom who reads stories to her daughter at bed-time.
And the dad who helps his son hold a hammer.
A teacher is the grandma who shows her grandchildren how to bake.
And the grandpa who shares his love of nature.
A teacher is the man who stops in front of passing crowds on the street to give the homeless person something to eat.
A teacher is the woman at the park who picks up the litter on the ground where the kids are playing.
A teacher is the nurse who prays with you at the hospital.
And the person who offers to put your grocery cart away because your arms are filled with children.
And the neighbor who drops off a meal for your family after you have surgery.
A teacher is someone who reaches out in a way that inspires you to be a better person and to reach out too.
A teacher, whether in the classroom or not, is someone who believes that they can make a difference.
And through their actions, they do.
They really, really do.