While not all teachers receive the gratitude they deserve, teachers are influencers. They influence what the next generation thinks about math, science, history, language, and a variety of other subjects, but most importantly teachers can influence how students view themselves. Even the most troubled students can find value if their teacher takes the time to show them that they have it. Teachers like these inspire and they have incredible stories. Here are five such stories.
Les Brown was a struggling student that had been labeled "educable mentally handicapped." This label had several effects on Les. First, everyone knew he was "dumb." Brown's struggle was made even more obvious to peers in that he had a twin brother who was "gifted." Les became known as the "DT" or "dumb twin." The second thing this label did was affect his view of himself. Les did not believe he could overcome his disability and succeed. He was labeled, his friends teased him, and he believed he was not able to overcome. A teacher changed his mind. This teacher asked Les to come to the board and work a problem. Les was certain that he could not solve it and stated "But I can't. I'm educable mentally handicapped." The teacher looked at him with firm kindness and said, "Don't ever say that again. Someone else's opinion of you does not have to become your reality." This teacher changed Les. He never forgot those words and he worked hard to overcome his disability. Now, Les Brown is one of the leading motivational speakers in the nation telling millions that "You have greatness within you." One teacher's ability to show Les kindness is now credited for producing a man who motivates millions.
Judith Toensing of Yuma, Arizona was a sixth grade teacher in 1997. That very year Mrs. Toensing wrote a note of encouragement on one of her students final report cards. She wrote to a yound Christin Glimer, "It has been a joy to have you in class. Keep up the good work! Invite me to your Harvard graduation." Christin held on to that message for twenty-three years. In May of 2018, Mrs. Toensing received and invite to her Harvard graduation. Glimer pushed hard to graduate with her doctorate from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and she credited Toensing's words for helping her push through any struggle that came in her path. Not only did Toensing's note help push Gilmer forward, but during that year Toensing taught her class about infectious diseases such as HIV and how they ruin lives. Toensing's teaching propelled Gilmer toward her Doctorate in Public Health as she credits her sixth grade teacher for opening her eyes to these issues. Toesing says that Gilmer displayed great passion even as a sixth grader, and she just wanted to help her achieve as much as she could. Once again, a teacher's simple words influenced the life of a student.
Marilyn Gambrell witnessed time and time again the struggles of students with parents that had been incarcerated. In an act of loving kindness, she decided to do something to help these students. In 2000 at M.B. Smiley High School in Houston, Texas, Gambrell initiated "healing the CHILD within." This program focused on giving support to students while their parents could not. Gambrell saw that most of her students had also been victims of all sorts of abuses, so she also started the No More Victims program in Houston to continue to create safer school environments. Since starting these programs, Gambrell has been able to positively impact the lives of hundreds of students.
John Blaine, a gym teacher at Colonial Hills Elementary school decided to be an encourager. Matt Woodrum was one of Blaine's students, and he is also a sufferer of cerebral palsy. On race day Matt struggled to run, but Blaine, instead of pulling Matt out of the race, decided to cheer him on. His cheering caught hold with the rest of the students and soon the whole class was running behind Matt encouraging him all the way to the finish line. Another amazing teacher that helped one of their students go farther when they could have just had them give up.
Babar Ali lives in a small village in West Bengal. When Ali was nine, he discovered his passion for educating others, and he was distraught by the lack of literacy in his village. His family had nothing to support his mission with as they were poor, but Ali had his convictions. Ali established a small school for the children to come and learn as much as they wanted free of fees. As a nine year old, Ali and a group of his friends would study during the days, and teach the other kids during the evening. Now, this little school started by a nine year old with a passion for educating hold around eight hundred students. Private donations keep this school going, but the government has agreed to sponsor the lunch meal. At age 16 Ali became the youngest principal, and as of 2014, at age 22, Ali had given a TED talk and was attending college. Of course, he continues to teach children that would not have had a chance to learn otherwise.
Each of these teachers has a unique story, but each of them decided to show care for their students. The impact that educators can have on their pupils often is underestimated. These teachers, like many others around the world that remain unnamed and unknown, chose to care, to be compassionate, and to inspire their students. Every day that a teacher wakes up and heads to the classroom, they have the chance make a difference. Every day is a chance to be an incredible teacher.