Who was your favorite teacher growing up? Does favorite and great go together? My favorite and great teacher was Miss Smith. She was that teacher, that person, who made me feel like I could do anything in a time of adolescence existential crisis. As an English teacher, her belief in my writing helped me get beyond my impediments of the existential and academic variety. She did things in a large, overall sense. Miss Smith truly listened to her students. She encouraged us to go further and higher with our thoughts. She encouraged and supported us to take a chance and a leap of faith, at a time when different is shunned in life and academic courage is all too infrequent.
As this was written, NPR reported that the Varkey Foundation was getting ready to award one remarkable teacher a million dollars as part of it first Global Teacher Prize. From an American teacher who started a school garden at a Bronx school to get more than vegetables to grow and thrive, to a Malaysian teacher who had made it policy for male students to bring a female family member or friend to address the large gender education gap, the ten finalists are incredible people who make a daily difference in education. They are innovative and inspire/motivate their students-many who are in what seem like impossibly difficult situation. They are characterized by the cliché statement of thinking outside of the box and not assuming all students learn the same. We all have had great teachers. Who was yours?
UPDATE: …and the winner of the first Million Dollar teacher award is: Nancy Atwell! Interesting that although she moved away from Western New York years ago, Nancy Atwell has said in interviews that it was those first couple of years teaching in the Buffalo area that cemented her love of teaching in the 1970’s. The first Grammy award to a music teacher also went to an amazing WNY’er (Kent Knappenberger). Seems there is something going on in the local WNY environment that produces these great individuals who don’t follow the rules, question preconceived notions and make a difference in the world be it through children, education, business or medicine. A true Renaissance is finally taking hold in one of the last ‘rust-belt’ cities!