Here Are Your Favorite Teacher Stories

Sharing stories to honor, appreciate and celebrate the teachers in our lives

Lorena R. Morgan M.Ed.

Spanish Teacher | Lyndon Academy | Holly Springs, GA

It was my sophomore year in college, and I had issues finding confidence in public speaking. I was in the "teachers" program, and I just could not find myself speaking to prospective students without feeling sick and getting frustrated. In my class presentations, I was the last one, with the smallest voice, and not making eye contact at all.

Everyone knew I was a mess. I was so afraid and ashamed; I could not ask for any help! My teacher, Mr. Coello was always a champion in the public speech territory. He was always confident, happy, motivated, giving powerful words to everyone. I admired him and imagined if I could get just 1% of his confidence, I would be a great teacher one day.

During a class project, he told the class, "I will make you be the best leader you can be." I did not believe him. He told us that the project was simple. He stated, "Talk for 2 minutes about your favorite topic. Anything you like, you love, you know, that's it!" I was shocked! This was not academic. For a week, my classmates and I spent hours practicing on how to make a 2-minute presentation. Many found out that they needed more time, so they cut their words. Some others realized they did not have enough words to say, so they changed their topics.

The day came. We all presented. We listened to all types of topics. From soccer and movie stars to cars and politics. I was the last one. I talked for 2 minutes about the "Hero" concept in movies. I explained the topic, gave samples, and opened a discussion section for my classmates to participate. I was incredible.

From that moment on, Mr. Coello did not let me be the last one, my confidence improved, and this year (2021) I celebrate 23 years of teaching. Thanks to Mr. Coello for taking the time to "fix" my problem, to show me that we all can be the best leader if we work hard and put some passion into our words.

Emily Loughlin, M.Ed.

Spanish Teacher | Thomas Prince School | Princeton, MA

Battleship? In Spanish class?

During my 9th grade year, my Spanish teacher announced to us one day that we were going to be playing battleship. I remember thinking this can't be happening, we have things to learn, and he never does weird off-topic things like this.

Turns out we were taking out the numbers and the letters and, you guessed it, replacing them with subject pronouns and verbs to conjugate. This experience of using a game in the classroom to accomplish the same thing that a boring worksheet could completely fascinated me. I vividly remember playing against my friend inside our high school building that has since been torn down. It was such a pleasing memory of high school that I will always remember winning the game, the view of the courtyard, the way the sun entered the classroom, the desks we had to sit in, and the layout of the room. I think I asked to play this game at least once a week because I enjoyed it so much and occasionally my teacher would humor my requests. It was one of the first activities I created as a teacher and I always think of my enjoyment in this activity when trying to share that with my students.

This experience is one of the first times I can remember thinking "This is what I want to do with my life." This teacher also showed us many other games that are classic to most world language environments like charades and Pictionary. He also really tried to push our language skills.

I remember another experience where he had a story to tell but he didn't want to waste the time in class speaking, GASP, English, so he told us the story in Spanish with lots of actions and drawings on the board. Someone he knew on a tour made a huge mistake of swinging on a vine in the rainforest and lost a bunch of their teeth when they fell into a rock. Very sad for that individual but I think of this story OFTEN when I'm acting out similar stories and vocabulary for my students knowing that these are the things they will remember in years to come and hopefully I am inspiring them to be a teacher, just like Mr. L did for me!

Jenniffer Whyte

Spanish Teacher | The Donoho School | Anniston, AL

Sandra G. Hernández, M.Ed., MATS

Spanish Teacher, WL Dept Chair | Southwest High School | San Antonio, TX

I was inspired in high school by my two Spanish Teachers to continue taking Spanish classes in college. Even though they taught in different ways. One was all about culture and the other about the grammar. I didn't know how important both topics were in the language.

One taught me to conjugate in vosotros because "you never know when you are going to meet someone from Spain or Argentina" and he was right. I had a professor from Spain in college and he did not sound "weird" to me when he would teach while others had trouble understanding why he was talking that way.

My other high school teacher encouraged me to join our dancing group where we performed in several competitions and won awards. This group also taught me to perform in front of an audience as I was a very shy person. A few years ago, I saw one of them in a state event for Student Council and he pointed out to me how impressed he was with the teacher that I had become. He even mentioned that if I ever go back home, he would want for me to go and replace him after he retires. That brought tears to my eyes and he reiterated that I would be the type of teacher he would want to be replaced with.

I just hope that I am performing above expectations for both of them as they keep inspiring me every day to be the best educator I can be for my students.

Cynthia Reedy, M.S.E.

World Language Teacher | Hebron Academy | Hebron, ME

Sometimes there are sticky memories that resurface as events occur in our lives and we come to understand the unusual word or phrase or reaction which we simply did not understand in childhood. For instance, my parents always slept with their bedroom door open. If the door was shut, we were supposed to knock before we went in. I hate to tell you how old I was before I figured that one out.

One of my sticky memories from junior high niggled at me from the back of my mind for years. I cannot remember the teacher’s name but she had had my brother two years before she had me in class. I remember my parents laughing about it when they came home from parent conferences. The teacher had acted out my brother, who always knew all the answers, hand tentatively raised at half-mast, and then there was Cindy, hand shooting into the air before she even finished asking the question. This now nameless Social Studies teacher took me out into the hall one day – I was never taken out into the hall; that only happened when the teacher was going to yell at you – she looked at me closely and asked, “Is everything okay at home?” I was completely clueless about what she was asking. Was there something wrong that she knew about and I didn’t? Was my baby sister okay? I guilelessly answered ”Of course, everything is fine,” and we returned to the classroom.

That sticky memory finally came unstuck years later when I began teaching at Oxford Hills High School. I was talking to someone about loving gymnastics in junior high and the stupidest thing I had ever done. I tried to do parallel bar moves on the iron jungle gym structure at the park near my house. It was a cubic structure with 3 cubes on a side, roughly a foot and a half for each cube. I spun myself around one of the bars and jammed my cheekbone into an adjacent bar. It was such a stupid thing to do. Didn’t I realize that the jungle gym was much smaller than the uneven bars? Not surprisingly, I got an amazing black eye. I looked like a baseball player ready for a double-header.

In 1972, my teacher was ahead of her time. She looked at her students and she noticed things. I had a black eye! No one talked about child abuse back then but it happened. She asked me, “Is everything okay at home?” I don’t remember her name, but I remember her and her kindness. Everything was fine at home but maybe, one day, there was a student who needed her help and she was there.

Jacobo Luna, M.A.

Spanish Teacher, 9th Grade Dean | Greenhill School | Addison, TX

I remember Mrs. Acela so fondly! She would always walk into her classroom with the nicest attitude and say “good morning kiddos” even though we were in high school. Her anecdotes, questions about life, and her openness to hear our opinions was the most welcoming part of her daily lessons. Teachers like Mrs. Acela instill a passion for life and a genuine passion for learning. I will always remember you!

Shelly Robinet

Academic Services Secretary | Livonia Public Schools | Livonia, MI

First of all, every teacher I have ever met is an angel. Even the not-so-wonderful ones taught important life lessons about working through conflicts and that there are all types of people in the world and you can learn to work with them or they will work against you.

I have 4 children so that roughly equates to 160 teachers when you factor in some teachers had more than one of my kids. There is one that will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Kim Carty, in Livonia Public Schools, was teaching first grade when our 7-year-old son was added to her class in mid-December. The school district we came from pulled Carl out for reading help (during the math lesson) and math help (during the reading group time). He stayed in at recess to work with a resource helper so he was miserable by the time he came home from school. We tried to help him at home but by the end of the day, he couldn't sit for 10 minutes to finish homework. It was an ugly cycle of him never feeling good about school and not doing well during tests.

All of that changed when Carl met Kim Carty. She realized that Carl needed some help with his reading so that all the other subjects would fall in line. Within 3 months, Kim had him reading at grade level and doing well in all subjects plus he loved going to school! We are so blessed that all 4 of our children had Kim in elementary school and I have the Mother's Day magnets on my refrigerator that they made in her class from everyone! Kim is teaching Kindergarten now and I know that she is blessing those families as well.

Kathryn A. Rump

Spanish Teacher | Appoquinimink High School | Middletown, DE

I have had many inspirational teachers during my lifetime. Two teachers that stand out to me are my English and drama teacher, Mr. William Coughlin, and my Spanish teacher, Señor Henry Cline.

Mr. Coughlin was dynamic in the classroom and always created challenging and thought-provoking assignments. His quick wit and sarcasm also made the class fun! I was also able to get to know Mr. Coughlin by being a member of the drama club. After school, Mr. Coughlin would share his passion with us and inspire us to embrace our role fully on stage. The feeling of being together with my friends on stage is one I will never forget. Mr. Coughlin extended one of the best compliments to me during our senior night at the spring one-act plays by saying I was like a chameleon – adaptable, changeable, and always different. I still try to emulate those traits today in my classroom.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention my former Spanish teacher, Señor Henry Cline. His knowledge of Spanish, his dedication to getting us to use the language and to love the language and culture are part of the reasons why I eventually became a Spanish teacher. We did so many hands-on projects that were interesting and let us be creative. I can still remember my group’s board game that we created about driving – El Volante de Conocimiento. I was so sad when Mr. Cline left our school district for another, but I had the pleasure of reconnecting with him recently. On a whim, I looked at the website for his “new” school and he’s still teaching there! I reached out and it was amazing to share what I am doing now and learn about his life after leaving my high school. If you’ve ever considered reaching out to a former teacher and letting them know how you are doing – do it!

Glenda Dowless

World Language Teacher | Statesville High School | Statesville, NC

I had a teacher who always came to the class with a smile and full of contagious energy. She was always telling us stories about her trips and experiences she had in other countries. In my mind I’ve traveled to all those places she told us about in her stories! She always made us laugh and laugh.

I said to myself, “I want to be like that one day,” and share my own stories. She inspired me to become an International teacher and get to know people from many different places. I’ve learned to listen to my students and create activities that allow me to hear their dreams, their jobs, and their passions. I have found that creating activities to motivate students is a challenge, but very rewarding in the end!

Gina Elia, Ph.D.

Mandarin Chinese Teacher | North Broward Preparatory School | Coconut Creek, FL

The Study of Change

My tenth-grade Chemistry teacher could tell that the next Mendeleev I was not, of that I was sure. Soon after the year started, he gave a series of the most difficult exams I had ever had in quick succession. Passing the tests back, he warned that those of us who couldn’t do well on them should consider moving down from Honors. His eyes seemed to bore directly into mine whenever he said that. Known amongst my classmates as “the writer,” science had never been my forte, but this was the first course I had ever encountered in which my performance was dismal. I determined that if I could not get an A on the next assignment, I would drop down a level. At some point, before I got that assignment back, he happened to ask the class, somewhat skeptically, if any of us were taking the new Chinese class at the high school. Although he made me nervous, I tentatively raised my hand. He looked surprised.

I got an A on the assignment. Not only did I get an A, but my Chemistry teacher had written what looked like two Chinese characters on the tab of the folder in which he had returned the work. I approached him after the end of that class, still at that point on edge around him, and asked what they meant. He told me that in fact, they formed the Japanese word for “chemistry.” It turns out that in his youth, he had spent several years in Japan and could speak Japanese.

He used to tell us with a twinkle in his eye that Chemistry was the most important subject in the world, that all of the other maths and sciences were next in that hierarchy, and that these were followed by the humanities, friends, and family toward the bottom in whatever order you like. I had to forgive him for this, though, because in the same breath, he would recommend that we should read The Biography of Samuel Johnson or learn knitting, suggestions that were usually met with a mass of blank stares from the crowd of fifteen-year-olds sitting in front of him. Sometimes he brought in trinkets from his time in Japan to teach us about Japanese culture, and occasionally when class ended a little early he would show us videos about Japan. It seemed that in practice, he didn’t follow his own hierarchy.

My father, an engineer, had always portrayed the maths and sciences as existing in competition and conflict with the humanities, and as the winning side at that. His dismissive attitude toward the only courses that had ever spoken to me had led in those early years of my life to me developing a seething rage at anything having to do with STEM (though it wasn’t called that yet), and a determination to prove that the humanities were better. Yet my Chemistry teacher, despite paying lip service to the same ideas as my father, liberally mixed cultural studies, literature recommendations, and family and consumer science tips into our Chemistry classes like it would be silly to imagine learning science any other way. He also opened his classroom to other learning opportunities, like letting the school’s Latin teacher teach us about common Latin roots of English words or inviting some visiting teachers from China to tell us what school was like there.

Somehow these experiences didn’t distract from the chemistry, but rather enhanced it. I don’t remember myself being so entranced by a math or science course before or since. I latched onto these decidedly atypical Chemistry class experiences and saw in them a metaphor for how Chemistry worked and why it was important that I could wrap my humanities brain around: elements exist in the world and come together in reactions that change each participating component in different ways, sometimes fundamental ones, based on the nature of the reaction. Just so, each one of us as individuals is transformed, sometimes fundamentally, by the other individuals and ideas with which we interact. I went into my Chemistry teacher’s class a warrior battle-hardened against the onslaught of math and science on the humanities as we know it. But in his class, dawn broke over the battlefield and illuminated a possibility I had never considered before: that maybe innovation was the fruit of not one but many, even all ideas comingling, and that the pursuit of knowledge could be a collaborative and exploratory effort rather than a competitive and cutthroat one.

It turned out that I was indeed no Mendeleev, as my teacher’s penetrating stare tells me he had predicted from Day One. I worked hard and performed well in his class, scoring the top mark on his hardest exams. I thought it was because I had a knack for Chemistry, but realized with sinking disappointment years later looking at my Cs in AP Chem that it had really just been out of a burning desire to please my teacher. I also never performed particularly well on the few assignments he gave us that required us to actually be creative in our experimental design, rather than just following directions. Yet, I came away from his class transformed in my understanding of the world of intellectual inquiry. I may not have majored in Chemistry, but I did end up getting a Ph.D. in Chinese literature, spending years in China and Taiwan, and becoming fluent in Chinese on the way. To this day, I believe that at some level, I made this decision because of him. I now work as a Chinese high school teacher elsewhere in the country, while he still peddles his magical variant of Chemistry in my hometown.

I thank him for that spontaneous decision to write those two characters on that early assignment--ka-gaku, Chemistry, literally translated as “the study of change.” His class truly was the study of the power of change: physical change, chemical change, intellectual change, and all of the transformations that drive us and our societies forward.

Lyssa Young

Teacher | Lely High School | Naples FL

I would love to tell of my 4th-grade teacher Miss Mason back in Louisiana! I was a shy student who always tried to be invisible in school because I was the only black student in a class of 20. Miss Mason wasn’t having any of that! She seated me right in the front of the class and always greeted me with the warmest of welcomes each school day.

I remember her so well because Miss Mason would always bring Smarties candies each day. She did not like the pink ones and would set each one aside for every roll of Smarties she ate and would give them to me. That made me feel so special! What may appear to be such a simple act of kindness meant the world to me. That was only one of many gestures she did to make me feel accepted and loved in a time when I felt life was punishing me for no good reason.

Those memories live on inscribed in my thoughts constantly. Now that I’m a teacher, I look for those same opportunities in the lives of my students every day. You never know what small gesture might be the very thing that makes an otherwise insecure student stand tall and conquer the world! It certainly did it for me.

Madame Mary Arling

French Teacher | Blue Valley Northwest High | Overland Park, KS

My favorite teacher was Mademoiselle La Forge. I had many I liked a lot - mostly English and History teachers, so it’s hard to choose!

I remember very distinctly when I discovered under her guidance that I indeed was intelligent and smart enough to learn a foreign language. I was a junior in high school and was in French 3. She was a long term-sub and very young fresh out of college, so we felt like we could relate to her.

She said something fast that no one could understand, and it was my turn to repeat it and then translate. I did not know what she said, but I heard it and repeated it perfectly! I discovered at that moment that I had an ear for hearing and learning. By some miracle, I told what I thought it meant and I was right. And I felt like the whole class was astounded and mesmerized by my verbal brilliance!

It was that spark that had me continue to learn French in college, go to live in France for 9 months, and become a French teacher myself! I still make my students repeat what I say rapidly and see if they can translate. Many students struggle but many have astounded me with their intelligence too.

Diana Ngo

French Teacher | Western High School | Anaheim, CA

My favorite teacher is my 1st-grade teacher, Alberte. Even though I was just 6 years old, I remember her being kind, loving, patient, and funny. She took us on a ski trip for 2 weeks and I have such sweet memories of that 1st-grade trip. We not only learned how to ski but she had us write letters to our parents and made sure we'd get mail from our parents too. Near the end of the school year, she had to take a leave of absence, which made us all so sad. I remember crying while lying on the floor at home and writing her a letter on scratch paper, asking her to come back.

Cheryl Nesbitt

Spanish Teacher/Japanese Teacher | Santa Monica High School | Santa Monica, CA

My favorite teacher in high school, Mr. M____, was the surfer/skier dude on the campus. He was a brand new hire and a brand new dad to a baby son whom he often brought on campus. I'm sure he was still in his early 20's and we adored him. Mr. M did all the things we now consider "great teaching,” such as value the student first, create real-world assignments that are fun and create connections between students, etc. His most memorable assignment? Choose your favorite rock album song and translate it into Spanish. On presentation day, bring your album on campus and play it in class while everyone tries to sing along in Spanish! It was fun, challenging, and since it was the late 1970's, it resulted in nearly a week of daily listening to and attempting to sing rock anthems in Spanish using hand-typed song sheets created by his students. After 5 days, we were still not finished, and Mr. M sadly let us know that we would all receive credit for our lyrics but that we had run out of time to finish our Spanish Rock projects. We were disappointed but totally understood. We were just stoked that Mr. M had been cool enough to even attempt this assignment.

Mr. M was a big advocate of students getting out there and using Spanish. He sponsored a yearly surf trip to Mazatlán, and another bus trip from L.A. to Tijuana where we were assigned small groups, tasked with speaking Spanish ONLY and given a list of questions we had to ask people in Spanish before the end of the day. Of course, this being the late 1970's, there were NO chaperones. Just a bunch of us crazy teenagers running around Tijuana asking questions in Spanish, and Mr. M, who waited at a restaurant on Calle Revolución just in case we had an "emergencia." As the school year closed, Mr. M hosted a "paella party" at his own home, where all the students were tasked with researching and cooking the paella. I clearly remember that my task was to boil the lobster, one of whom jumped out of the pot, resulting in my screaming retreat to the living room! That paella was delicious and unforgettable.

Many of us are still in touch with Mr. M even to this day. He rose through the ranks of teachers, changed districts, became a superintendent, and just recently retired. I went on to major in Spanish, adding Japanese later on, got a credential in both languages, and now teach at a public high school. Mr. M's teaching influenced me to major in Spanish, become a teacher, and be adventurous and student-centered in my instruction. So, "Mil gracias, Señor M!" You were the coolest teacher ever. 😎

Do You Have a Favorite Teacher Story?

Wayside Loves Teachers is a place to share your meaningful stories. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-7, 2021), we are showcasing stories about the teacher/educator who made an impact on you whether they inspired or challenged you.

Stories can be submitted to in written, audio, or video format. We will review every story, and who knows, we may even feature your story here or on social media. Discover the power of your own voice. Tell us your story. We are listening.