Monday, March 1, 2010

My Best...No Most Influential Teacher

You are often asked, "who was your best/favorite teacher?"  Best/Favorite can mean so much.  Influential is probably the more important word to use in such a question.  I recently saw a Tweet about an article in the New York Times asking people who their best teacher was and why.  That got me thinking about my own experiences in school.  It is important to note that I went to a small PUBLIC school in Louisville, KY; James Graham Brown School.  It was grades 1-12 (now K-12) and I went there all 12 years.  I graduated with 49 other Seniors, which about 15 of I went to school with since 1st grade.

At my school we called teachers by their first name, we had couches and recliners in many of our classrooms, we were permitted to leave campus for lunch our senior year, no bells, just when the clock hit the time class was over, we went on to our next class, and many other "oddities" you would rarely see in schools today.  It is important to note that my high school now has the #1 scores in the states annual assessment and many of the same "oddities." still in place

The school in itself played a huge role in influencing me.  There was this one teacher though that stands out.  Since the school was so small, I had Jean (as we called her) for Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus.  It is important to note that my grades went D, C, B in those classes.  She had my brother as well, he did not fare so well in the class.  I immediately had a hump to get over the first day in her class.  As you can tell, I didn't fair so well getting over the hump looking at my grades.  As the subjects got harder, I did better.  Part of that is maturity.  The other part is gaining respect for Jean.

I will always remember her class.  Quizzes every Wednesday, Test and Notebook check every Friday.  We rarely, if ever, deviated from the schedule, even when it snowed.  I remember her worksheets.  They were made on the Ditto Machine in her classroom.  Copy Machines had been around for a while, but for her, it was not about using ANY technology..not that much was available back then.  I think teacher stations were still optional.  So much of the class was student centered.

So much of what I learned in her class had little to do with Math.  I learned organizational skills because of the notebook checks.  I learned study skills because of the schedule.  I learned how to speak in front of other students because we were required to go to the board every day and complete math problems.  I learned how to respect someone.  She influenced my future.  Was she my favorite teacher?  Was she my best teacher?  Could be, but I remember her for being influential, not because she was easy, fun, exciting, used the greatest teaching methods, or differentiated instruction.  She was very set in her ways.  Judging how my grades were in her classes, it obviously worked.  It just took time for me to adjust and realize how influential she was.  

Jean retired the same year we graduated.  We always joked with her that our class caused her to retire...that she just could not take it anymore.  It was really the exact opposite.  She wanted to finish her career going out with one of her most influential classes.

So, how does this story relate to technology, and I might be stretching it here.  It is not using the technology that makes you influential.  You could use all the technology in the world and not have any influence on your students.  It is HOW you use the technology to influence your students.  Students will think you are influential because of how you used technology to influence them for a lifetime and how that technology influenced their learning.

Who was your most influential teacher?  If you blog, consider this a challenge to write a post telling your readers who influenced you.  If you have done that before, link again to it, so new readers can see your post about your most influential teacher.


  1. I was blessed with so many influential teachers. In elementary school it was Mrs. Hebert, Mrs. Graybill, Mrs. Nelson, and Mr. Austin. In High school it was Mr. Yansak and Mrs. Onesty. Each of them was a very different teacher, each influential to me in my life. Every time I write I think of Mrs. Onesty. When I make a peanut butter sandwich I think of Mrs. Nelson. When I listen to kids talk about spelling homework I think of Mr. Austin. I learned important life lessons from each of these teachers.

  2. I loved this post! I too grew up in a small town, with a small high school -- 29 in my graduating class, most of whom I had known since Kindergarten. I very much agree with your idea that the best/favourite/most influential teachers left a lasting impression of life skills more so than subject content. For me, my list of influential teachers could go on for ever...Mr. Mastel, Miss Olafson, Mr. Elaschuk, Mr. Knops, Mr. Froese...all of these great people taught me very different subjects and contributed to my growth in my teenage years. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  3. Nice post and well said. I certainly hope I have some student who thinks as well of me in the future.

  4. Sorry, the grammar policeman in me requires that I inform you that the word is "fare", not "fair" in "I did not fare so well." Otherwise, the post is very nice.

  5. I appreciate the grammar police....I never claim to have the best, so I appreciate the help. Error has been corrected.