Not all teachers are angels, but these ones are sure to get you in the feels. From lending golden nuggets of wisdom to inadvertently saving lives, these teachers changed their students’ lives forever. Get ready for heartening stories, weepy eyes, and a heaping dose of the warm and fuzzies. Read on to learn of some of the most memorable teachers around.
1. Being Seen
A teacher called me out of English my senior year to chat in the hall just to “check on me and how I was doing.” He had no idea that I was actually thinking about ending my own life. I had planned to head to the girls’ room after that class with a purse full of pills…I was going to all of them. That one act of “being seen” changed the entire direction of my life.
I’m in my 40s now and run a nonprofit that works with our school to provide food, clothes, school supplies, Christmas gifts, prom dresses, testing fees, etc. Pretty much anything a student might lack that takes their focus off being the best them they can be, we work to meet it. I have four teens and a dozen more of their friends who view our house as their second home and safe space when things are rough at home.
Mr. Williams, you were an angel and your impact has touched hundreds of kids because you showed me the value of helping kids know they matter.
2. Eye On You
We had an English teacher whose introduction is unforgettable. On the first day, he said, “Good morning. I’m Mr. Taylor and I will be teaching grade 10 English this semester. First, let me address what you’re all wondering. Yes. This is a glass eye. I lost it while playing darts.” DART TO THE EYE. This will stick with me for life.
3. Friendship Worthy
I was mean in early high school. My circle was an echo chamber of similar people. We never invited people into our clique and did mean pranks on others without ever really getting caught. Teachers knew we were our own little clique but we were all pretty good students. I didn’t realize it but at the time I used being mean to others as a distraction from home, things I didn’t want my friends to know about.
At the time, I had a geometry teacher that I had a crush on. I often stayed behind to help her with grades/tutor other kids. Once, in ninth grade, we were in the elevator going home, and she asked me, “If you weren’t you, would you be friends with you?” I honestly said, “No.” She then asked me, “Well, wouldn’t you want to be somebody you could be friends with?” I swear my brain felt like it broke.
Coincidentally, the elevator door interior was reflective so I could see myself in it as I processed what she’d said to me. I just remember my brain processing how terrible I’d been. I totally changed my demeanor from there on out. I would not even recognize myself. I’m glad she mentioned this to me before I got worse and really solidified how terrible I’d been.
4. The Path Taken
One class camping trip, we are out walking a trail to the next campsite, carrying our lives in our packs. I was not in great physical shape and was well back in the rear. So, it is basically just me and one teacher to make sure no one fell too far back. We came to a part where a branch had fallen across the trail, partly blocking it.
It was big enough to be an effort to move it but was not so large that it couldn’t have been moved by any of the over thirty other students and teachers that had already walked around it. Without even thinking about it, I grabbed the branch and tossed it to the side of the path. When the teacher saw me, he said something so wise—I’ll never forget it.
He said, “Thirty boys walked past that branch. It took one man to move it, and he made life easier for every person after him.” It became a personal motto, of sorts: “Make it easier for the people who come after you.” Although when you do a good job, the person who comes after you is usually also you.
5. Got Your Back
I’m a lesbian, and in my high school ROTC class, I accidentally came out during class. It was awkward, and at the end of class, our drill sergeant teacher asked me to stay for a moment. I stayed while being two seconds away from bursting into tears, fearing that I’d be reprimanded, only to have this teacher tell me, “What you said today was really brave. If anyone gives you any trouble for it, come tell me, and I’ll take care of it.”
This guy was a real tough nut, so for someone like him to support me meant the world to me.
6. A Thorough Reading
Our class was supposed to be reading 1984. One day, our teacher hit us with a pop quiz on the previous night’s reading assignment. I had not done the reading so I was completely unprepared. I did my best to guess the answers to the first couple of questions but after that, I knew it would be obvious that I hadn’t done the assignment.
So, I started writing my answers as observations about the book. My last answer was along the lines of, “This book is boring” or “This book is weird.” When I got my quiz back, he had written, “How would you know? You haven’t read it.” I immediately knew I was going to prove him wrong. That night I sat down and read the whole book with the intent of coming to class the next day and telling him why it was weird and boring.
Instead, I liked the book, came to class, and told him what I would have done differently from/the same as the main character. He challenged some of my thoughts and I had to do some introspection. I truly appreciated that he called me out and that he didn’t dismiss me when I came back after actually reading the entire book.
From then on, I always made sure I was prepared for assignments. It has paid off in my career when I have been challenged in my work. I have been able to point out why I came to the conclusions that I did and have earned the respect of many people in my company as a result.
7. The Right Fuel
My high school guidance counselor told me something so hilariously true, I never forgot it. She said, “Follow what fuels you; follow your passion. Don’t be afraid to work with your hands if it is something that you enjoy. There are a lot of people out there with degrees and letters before their names, and they are absolute morons.” Wise words. They still hold up to this day.
8. Speeding Past
My high school auto shop teacher told me in my senior year, “Robert, you are the second-best student I have ever had in all my years of teaching.” I, immediately, asked who was the first best. I was told that it was Angela Vanderhorst. I was in disbelief that a girl was better than me. Well, as it turned out, she went on to be a lead mechanic on a racing team. So yeah. I guess she was, indeed, a better student than me.
9. Correction Time
One English teacher took me aside after class and coached me a few times into dealing with school tormentors. Something I had been struggling with ever since elementary school. She even let me get a bit of standing at her expense by allowing me to make a bit of fun of her by correcting her on an intentional mistake she made in class for my benefit.
The school insisted on UK English—something she was very strict about. But as we all were surrounded by US English we were horrible at spotting the difference ourselves. She told me she’d slip in a few of those errors and told me to not hesitate and correct her in public—no consequence, no worry. What she did still helps me to this day forty years or so later.
10. Boring Is As Boring Does
We had a Biology teacher, Mr. Caldwell. He came off as exceptionally chipper with an attitude that was almost comically put-on to the point where he didn’t hide it but nobody cared because it was better than half the indifferent teachers. However, whenever he would get serious or deep, his demeanor would change. One day we’re sitting in class and some kid got annoyed at Mr. Caldwell telling a story and called it boring. Mr. Caldwell’s demeanor changed like a switch.
Without missing a beat, he immediately whipped out, “Class, only boring people get bored.” It was like a monolith moment for me that I’ve never forgotten. It taught me two things: it taught me that every situation is interesting with the right mindset. Explore outside of your close-minded way of thinking and there is wonder in a lot that you overlook.
Also taught me that if the people around you are always bored, maybe you’re not with the right people.
11. What’s Important
In the midst of a truly awful senior year my AP History teacher, who was an absolutely terrifying 5-foot-tall older woman, looked me in the eye and said, “Some things in life are more important than your schoolwork.” This was after I told her that I didn’t complete my homework because my dad forced me to drive his mistress home from the airport and it messed me up.
I became a high school History teacher myself and the look on students’ faces when I tell them that after they confide in me is something I will never, ever, forget. That one single sentence spoken to me when I was 18 has defined my entire teaching career. In trauma-informed education they tell you to change the question from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” I can only hope we reach a point that all teachers view the behavior of their students through that lens.
12. Above Average
In my sophomore year of high school, I took an AP History class. Around the end of the second quarter, I fell into a deep depression. So, I missed school for nearly six months. I came back but wasn’t much better than I was before. The day I came back was the day we had to do a practice test for the AP Exam. I did it and pretty much cried thinking that I had messed up.
The next day we got them back and I had a 1 out of 5. During class, my teacher was telling all the students we were going to begin reviewing, and that on average, a student usually increased their score by about 2 when comparing the AP test and the practice test. Hearing this, I kind of just gave up on the spot. I completely zoned out until the bell rang.
I couldn’t wait to go back into that depressive state so that I couldn’t disappoint anyone anymore. I was prepared to wait until the next year to repeat and start the grade over, so I hopped out of my seat and tried to rush to the door. My teacher, though, asked to speak with me. I thought I was in trouble for zoning out. But instead, what she said to me made me bawl my eyes out.
She said something like, “I know that in class I said that the average student increases their score by two points, but you are not the average student. I am very happy to see you in my class, and it would make me so much happier to see you in class again and succeed.” She offered to help with personalizing a review process with me so that I could confidently attempt the AP Exam and stayed after school with me to help.
Hearing those words just made me realize how much people care and my mood just turned around. I ended up getting a 4/5 on that exam and I felt so happy about it. I even aced the final exam we had. Thank you, Ms. L.
13. The Biggest Critic
An interesting drama teacher, subbing for the regular, taught me that nobody really cares, and that’s a good thing. He was directing a self-written play in which a few us played a part. In high school, most people are terribly self-conscious and afraid of judgment. He told us, “Be a good person, but go and make mistakes, be silly, live your life, and own it! In the end, most people won’t remember if you looked stupid for five minutes.”
By teaching us that most things you do are trivial and inconsequential, he coaxed us out of our shells and got us to really act. But it left a big impression on me for my day-to-day life too.
14. Safe Space
I’m an LGBT student having lived my whole life in the Southern red states. Clearly, my school life was not a joy. But, then, it was the first day of my junior year and I had this Aquatic Science teacher who said at the beginning of class, “I’m going to call on everyone to introduce themselves. If you want to say your name, pronouns, or anything else, now’s a good time.”I looked up like I had just seen an angel.
I couldn’t believe that a teacher in Texas could be so open. It was something very small but it made so much of a difference to me because no teacher had ever shown that level of respect and support before. After he called me, I told him how much that meant to me because I usually had a difficult time with this issue. That teacher became my favorite teacher.
15. In Your Corner
A teacher of mine said he would write me a letter of recommendation, but it had been a week or so and he hadn’t gotten back to me yet. I went in a third time to remind him and I started with an apology, to which he corrected me immediately, saying, “Don’t ever stop advocating for yourself.” It’s advice I haven’t forgotten since.
16. Towards A Better Understanding
I was having a particularly bad year in high school emotionally and my grades were starting to reflect it, so my dad went in for parent-teacher conference day. When he got to my Orchestra Director, he bluntly told my dad that I was brilliant. When my dad just kind of shrugged it off, the Director looked him in the eye and got this extremely serious look on his face.
He said, “No, you don’t understand,” and proceeded to lecture him about me. I heard this secondhand from my dad and then talked to my Director about it afterward. His words and his faith in me have stuck with me all my life. I’m now finishing up a Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics.
17. Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Mrs. Boteilho, my senior year English teacher, left me a note on my final essay that has stayed with me throughout the years. She said that for every writing assignment, she would put mine on the bottom of the stack so that she knew she had a good one to look forward to. Just that little note boosted my confidence like little else had.
18. Standing Up
Only one person ever tackled my mother about her mistreatment of me and my siblings during my childhood. It was Parents’ Day and my mother, as usual, turned up to take the credit for my being top of the class again. At one point there was just me, my mother, and my Physics teacher, Mrs. Soames, in the lab. Mrs. Soames quite calmly challenged her.
She said, “Mrs. xxxxx, why do you treat Tomsdottir the way you do? She’s a good girl and doesn’t deserve it.” To my astonishment, my mother was speechless. No-one had ever confronted her before and she just didn’t know where to put herself. Mrs. Soames has been a role model for me ever since, and an unforgettable example of those people brave enough to tackle a tormentor in the presence of their victim.
To have someone stand by you when you are vulnerable, and make their support for you clear—I can’t tell you how that changed my view of other people.
19. Confetti! It’s A Parade!
My Philosophy teacher once, upon seeing that I’d completed my homework, yelled and ran to the front of the classroom, opened her desk drawer and pulled out two sticks’ of confetti, and threw it all over the class. Apparently, I was so inconsistent and lazy that she had taken the time to orchestrate this confetti after hours. She was a great teacher while I was a terrible student. I’ll never forget how much she believed in me, and what she did for me. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
20. Twenty Questions
Our Physics teacher used to give us tricky questions after explaining concepts to get us used to solving them. Once, in one of the questions, I found his answer to be wrong and corrected him. He listened to me but couldn’t find where he had gone wrong. He then it turned into a debate with each of us trying to convince the other.
Every time I tried to convince him, I had the lingering doubt, what if I was wrong? The only reason I had the courage to hold my own view was the teacher himself. He never dismissed my question, never treated me like an ignorant kid questioning his teacher who knew better. By the end, we just ran out of time as the class had ended.
Ultimately, I was expecting him to either ignore my question or to skip past it. But, in the next class, he completely surprised me. He not only told the class I was right, he explained where he went wrong in his initial explanation and turned it into a teaching moment where he showed us that anyone could make mistakes but the wisdom lay in fixing them.
He later told me that, even if I were wrong, what I did was right, that I should never hesitate to question anything or anyone as long as I do it respectfully and courteously. That lesson never left me and I just hope that whenever I question something, disagree with someone, or I am proven wrong, I can do it with enough grace and humility to make him proud.
21. Keeping A Distance
My English teacher in grade six put “a” and “lot” on two separate pieces of paper and taped them to the opposite walls of the classroom. Then, she got a student to run from “a” to “lot” while yelling with them “aaaaaaaa,” and, on getting to other side, switching to “looooootttt.” This was to teach us that they were separate and that “a lot” is incorrect. I have never forgotten and can still picture it as if it were yesterday. It’s been twelve years.
22. Doing Your Best
I had a baseball coach for English sophomore year and we had to write a daily journal. One day, our theme was about regrets, and when it came to spilling regrets, I didn’t hold back: I wrote about how when I was younger, my mom had cancer and regretted not being there more for her. I didn’t think he read these things but he did. He wrote a reply that I did nothing wrong and being young, I couldn’t have known any better. He was a good man/teacher.
23. A Different Perspective
I had a friend that was in the same History class as me and she had a crush on the teacher. She was also the salutatorian of our class and voted most likely to succeed. I graduated with barely a 3.0. She and I both had our History teacher sign our yearbooks, and in mine he wrote, “I’m going to miss our banter in class. You are a highly intelligent individual.”
In my friend’s yearbook he wrote, “Keep on truckin’.” I never felt particularly competitive with my friend, but that little bit of irony really changed the way I understood how people view intelligence.
24. The Right Order
I was very excited to be able to say all twelve months in a row for the first time and had to tell someone. The teacher I told was dismissive. I felt very stupid and just stopped trying at school, figuring that it didn’t matter if I was that stupid. Then, in my junior year of high school, a teacher noticed I was acing tests but barely, if at all, passing regular work.
He asked if he could help. I said that I was basically stupid so it didn’t matter. He said that I wasn’t stupid at all and wondered why I would think that. I told him about my seventh-grade teacher, what had happened and how nothing had proved my notion wrong since then. He pinpointed if that was the first time I was able to recite months, then there had to be a reason. And that’s when we made the most shocking discovery.
After many parent-teacher conferences and some tests later, we found that I had dyslexia. Four years of thinking I was stupid. It took one teacher to make things horrible and one teacher to make things a hundred times better. Thankfully, I was then given aid. While I only passed high school with a 2.1, I made the Dean’s lists and graduated college with a 3.8.
25. Drawn Out Of The Shell
My high school Science teacher let me hang out in his classroom during lunch when I hadn’t made any friends yet and was super shy. He saw that I enjoyed drawing anime-style and gave me some how-to manga books. He told me that it didn’t matter that I didn’t like Science or Math, that I would be an artist, and a successful one at that.
He ‘knew’ it. It gave me confidence when I had none. We would just sit there in comfortable silence while we ate, and he invited me to leave drawings on his chalkboard for his next class to see.
26. A Simple Act Of Faith
A teacher told me, “I believe you can do this.” The school, the council, and my parents did not believe that I could do an advanced qualification in biology. But that one teacher knew I needed it to follow my career aspirations. He paid for the exam himself, taught me before school, after school, and during lunch. He bought me textbooks and was the only one who even looked interested when I got a B.
It was a marvelous B, considering I didn’t have structured lessons or access to some materials. Because of him I got my degree in Biomedical Sciences. I then went on to become a nurse with the background knowledge I needed to get my Masters. He’s no more but I owe my life and happiness to Anthony Deprato.
27. To Thine Ownself Be True
A teacher was known for giving detention if you didn’t do the homework. One day, I just wrote down nonsense in my notebook ten minutes before class. When I showed it to her and she clearly saw it was all nonsense, she said, “You’re not supposed to do it for me, you’re supposed to do it for yourself.” That hit me like a brick wall since all my grades were terrible. What she said changed my life forever…
After that I started studying hard. I didn’t make it that year so I had to redo the year. Then I had the best grades in my class and ended up graduating third best of the whole high school.
28. More Than Forty Winks
Going into my sophomore year of high school, I got my schedule and saw that I had a particular teacher with a tough reputation. Unexcited, I went into this class with the expectation that she’d be mean or unhelpful. Instead, she was always fairly kind. I struggled a lot with my grades because I just didn’t care. I was also raising my sister’s infant daughter so I was just tired and apathetic.
One day, when I fell asleep in class, she asked after me. I apologized and said I was just tired. She bent down and whispered, “Go ahead and sleep. I’ll get you some notes for the day so you can go over everything.” At the end of the class, she handed me the said notes. She was kind to me like that throughout the entire year.
On the last day of the year, I gave her a letter and a small gift. I told her how she was the kindest teacher I’d ever had and went above and beyond for me, a kid who didn’t matter much to anyone else. I explained to her the things I had been going through and how the little bit of kindness she showed me meant the world.
She smiled at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I know life hasn’t been kind to you and that isn’t fair but you are going to be okay. I promise. You may not be okay today or tomorrow or even next year but I promise you that you will be okay. You matter so much more than you think you do.” And she was right. I may not be okay all the time but I am okay.
29. Giveaway Positivity
My high school Biology teacher, on the end of every quiz or exam, would put a giveaway point question. The question was always the same: “Science is: A- Exciting, B- Interesting, C- A Challenge, D- All of the above.” No matter which you marked, you got the point. However, since this was on every exam, the saying was sandblasted into my long-term memory.
This led to me always somehow muttering this whenever I was taking an exam in university, substituting the word science with whatever was necessary. Then it led to me muttering it whenever I was dealing with something stressful. Now, it has become a fallback whenever I run into one of life’s roadblocks and everything is simply designated “A- Exciting, B- Interesting, C- A Challenge, D- All of the above.” It’s simple but it helps keep me from being too negative.
30. Too Nice
My senior year of high school, things weren’t going well with my girlfriend. Only my Metals Tech teacher noticed my different behavior. He came up to me and asked why I was sad. I didn’t really want to talk about it so I told him I was just tired. Apparently, he saw through this and later asked again. I repeated my excuse. This time he said, “You are too nice of a person to be sad.”
I almost started bawling my eyes out. It’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me and I will never forget it.
31. On My Mind
I was a senior and my boyfriend at the time was a junior. I had a part-time job at a restaurant and had formed a little crush on one of my coworkers who was a bit older than me, I knew it was unrealistic, but I couldn’t help the way I felt. I confided in my APUSH teacher from the previous year who knew both me and my boyfriend.
He said to me, “Everything that happens up there in your mind palace is harmless; you can think and feel however you want, and as long as you don’t act on those feelings you’re not doing anything wrong.” That really grounded me. My boyfriend and I had one of the happiest, fruitful, and stable relationships I’ve ever been a part of.
Although we broke up when I left for college, we’re still good friends. Shortly after this conversation, my work crush evolved into an amazing friendship and he started dating one of our coworkers who became one of my best friends. They’re slightly older than me so I look up to them and joke that they’re my parents. They’re still the only three people I try and see every time I’m in my hometown.
32. Bucking Up
I had an English teacher during my freshman year of high school who was one of the rare adults that treated all of his students with respect while at the same time challenging us to do better. I distinctly remember him telling our class, “You are not as mature as you think you are, but you are more mature than your parents give you credit for.”
In line with this, he also told us about an agreement/rule he had with his own kids. He understood how hard it was for kids to do the right thing in the face of peer pressure. So, he had told his kids that if they were ever in a situation where they knew they shouldn’t be, they could call and use a previously agreed upon banal codeword.
He would then show up, “Uncle Buck” style, and get them out of wherever they were. This would allow them to save face with their friends and there would be no consequences for being in the situation in the first place.
33. Follow The Money
My favorite History teacher told me to “follow the money.” This did not mean in life as such, but in looking at events in history. It wasn’t enough to say “X country invaded Y country because they wanted more power”. Why did they want those lands? What was going on in the economy that made it worth the resources to invade? In truth, as they rightly implied, it rarely comes down to ideals.
34. No Thing Like A Small Lie
In primary school, a teacher said, “If you told the first lie, you’ll have to tell the second lie to cover the first one, then a third one and fourth one, etc. It’s never-ending.” Nine-year-old me’s mind was blown. It made me think about all the stress and frustration of keeping track of all lies I ever made. Thanks, Ms. Tai. It kept me from telling lies for most of my life.
35. Calling In
At a point, I spent a large length of time skipping school due to various reasons. One day, my music teacher phoned me after spending hours tracking a way to contact me because she was worried. She said, “I’m not phoning to tell you off, I’m phoning to make sure you’re okay. You don’t have to go to the classes you don’t like….”
“…Your exam is on Wednesday and I’m phoning to let you know, I know that no matter what, you’ll still be practicing because you’re a bright student and I know you’ll go far no matter what you choose to do.” That stayed with me.
36. Reading Between The Lines
I struggled with dyslexia and a learning disability my whole life. English class was miserable for me every year. However, in senior year, my literature teacher read a short story that was required of me and said, “What are you doing here? You are starting in my AP Lit class starting tomorrow.” I passed the AP test and my entire life really began because he believed in me.
I’m now a high school teacher, and while not as great as him, I really think I’m doing good work.
37. A Character Reference
I was on the verge of being expelled from school for writing a Facebook post about why I should be the Vice President of the SGA, and my English teacher saw me sitting in the office. He got this incredulous look on his face, and walked straight up to the principal and said, “I don’t know what Devin’s done, but he’s one of the brightest kids I’ve ever taught, and I can speak to his character.”
Something about seeing an adult defend me helped me realize that just because someone is the boss doesn’t mean they’re always right. It also felt good to be singled out by someone I respected so much. I worked as hard as I could in that class, and getting that support meant the world to me. I ended up getting out of expulsion, losing a few extracurriculars, and becoming the Vice President anyway. Yes, I’ll never forget Mr. Miller.
38. What Really Matters
Before our final year exams, my math teacher handed out an article about the most common last words spoken on one’s deathbed. She said no one wished they had worked longer hours; that they had spent more time at work than with their loved ones. So, if we didn’t get the grades we wanted, that was okay, because there’d be a backdoor to wherever we wanted to go.
She taught us that failure is okay. It’s only a minor setback. What’s important is having a good balance between work/studies, family/friends and our own hobbies/interests.
39. Arms Down
My high school football coach’s first words teaching us about the birds and the bees were, something along the lines of “Leave your verbal arms at the door.” He used the metaphor of the old American West where cowboys would leave their arms at the door when they entered a saloon to drink so nobody would get too harmed in an outburst when under the influence.
He said that in the class we would talk about a lot of topics that might make us feel uncomfortable and attempted to make a joke at someone else’s expense to break the tension. So, he asked us to leave our ‘verbal arms’ at the door so that everyone could feel comfortable asking honest questions. This was back in the late eighties. He was way ahead of his time.
40. Have A Heart
My teacher told my class after a fight, “You have a heart, he has a heart, she has a heart, and myself has a heart. That doesn’t make us any different, we are all human. It doesn’t matter where we came from. What matters is how you show yourself to others, that will define who you are as a human.” I always kept that in mind—cheesy but meaningful.
41. A Jingle In The Ear
Mr. Wentzel was an ancient-looking old man that substituted various classed at my tiny school. He would always bring chocolate-covered raisins with him and would share with anyone that would ask. One time we were rehearsing in choir. One of the girls played piano so we were able to sing that day. We were rehearsing for our upcoming concert that opened with various “old” jingles.
Mr. Wentzel just sat there smiling and reading the paper. We asked if he wanted us to do anything else or if we could leave early. There was no answer. We asked again, calling his name rather loudly. Suddenly he looked over at us and realized we’d been talking to him. He reached for his ear and turned on his hearing aid. It turns out that we had been horrifying the poor guy with horrible jingles that he’s been hearing forever.
I learned a couple of years ago that he was no more. I went out and got some chocolate-covered raisins in his memory.
Our eccentric Chemistry teacher would stop talking mid-flow and say, “I’m not paid to teach pigeons.” They would not start again until someone realized what was up and shooed away the offending avian. Apparently, an avian audience was not welcome. Things might have been different for these freeloaders if they bothered to enroll.
43. In The Genes
I took Biology in 2006. Our teacher gave us a little rhyme to remember what DNA was made up of. To this day I remember that little rhyme. It went, “We love DNA, made of nucleotides. Sugar, phosphate, and a base bounded down the side. Adenine and thymine make a lovely pair. Cytosine without guanine would feel very bare.”
44. Time Is Money
A high school Economics teacher had two sets of charts on the back wall of his classroom. One showed the history of a certain mutual fund from the early 1900s until, at the time, early 2000s. Overlaid on the chart was every major world event that had happened that year. It proved that no matter what, investments gained value over time.
The second chart showed the difference in investing $50 a month starting at 18, vs. starting at 22, vs. starting at 26, and ending at 65. Each chart was half the value of the previous one. The graphs, clearly, illustrated the time value of money, and how important time in the market is. That lesson has remained with me.
45. Round Peg In A Square Hole
In middle school, a teacher told me, “You have a very round way of thinking in a very square world.” This was after I expressed utter shock and horror that banks loan money to poor people at a high-interest rate when they basically throw it at rich people for free. My words had been, “But, how are they going to charge poor people more when they have less money?”
46. Passing It One
In college, I had a professor who bumped my grade up to pass his notoriously hard class. He knew I studied and worked as hard as I could for his class which is why he bumped it up so I could pass. He told me that one day I would be in a position to help someone else similarly, and to remember how he had helped me. I haven’t been in that position yet, however I will never forget those words, and will be sure to pay it forward when the time is right.
47. You Say Potato
A teacher placed a candle on the table and told us to write a hypothesis of what the candle was. Once everyone was done, he lit the candle and put it out, and asked us to adjust our hypothesis. Again, once everyone was done, he did something else…but it wasn’t what we expected: He bit the candle in half with a loud snap and ate it. Then he asked us again to adjust our hypothesis.
Turns out it was a cored potato and an almond sliver wick. It taught me to continually question and learn. I attribute this class to pushing me towards my science degree.
48. Just A Few Words
I had a gym teacher that was known for being strict and rude. He would actively and regularly make kids cry. After my dad died, this teacher was still extremely strict towards me. But one day, after track practice, he caught me in the hall and said something that caught me so off guard, I actually cried: “Your dad would be so proud of you.”
On 9/11, while classes were all but canceled, most teachers just rolled in TVs and left the news on. Not Jim R. He got up and lectured, to the groans of students. He talked about the effects this would have on the economy, our politics, our culture, and society. And he was right, if in somewhat broad strokes, of course. But this was literally hours after the towers collapsed.
When so much was still unknown, frightening, and tragic. It really gave me what I would consider a solid base of understanding the things that would come in the next decade. He talked about how traveling would change with restrictive security measures, how politics would take advantage of this new fear, how the fighting would be paid for by my generation, my kids’ generation, and so on.
He talked about how negative attitudes would spike towards certain people out of anger and fear and how that is totally wrong. As a vet and former authority figure, he cautioned us to not join the military while emotions ran high and a sense of patriotism was thick in our veins. It was a gift. As the years went on, and things unraveled, I felt like I already knew. I will never forget that fourth-period class.
50. From The Heart
It was the week of senior prom in high school, and our class was having the obligatory auditorium presentation on the dangers of underage drinking and driving. It is the end of the presentation that stood out. Our principal said, “There are three types of love in this world. The first is the love you share with another person (a boy/girlfriend/significant other).
The second is the love you share with your family (your mother/father/brother/sister). The third love is one that none of you have experienced yet, and that is the unconditional love of your child. When you have kids, you’ll do anything you can to see your child happy; and if anything were to happen to your child and they were taken off this planet you would never be the same for the rest of your life.” And then, unexpectedly, his speech took a dark and devastating turn.
“So, for prom, have fun, but please be careful, if not for yourselves then for your parents; because I don’t want anyone to have to experience what I had to go through when my child was taken from me.” His daughter had very severe epilepsy and had died the previous October. His energy and passion he put into his words will always stick with me, because he said it from the heart; and he truly didn’t want another parent to have to go through the same pain and suffering that he did.