Four Teachers Who Changed My Life
I know what you’re thinking, “That title’s a bit cheesy”, and you’re right- but that doesn’t mean it’s a hyperbole.
The truth is, I’ve found myself thinking about teachers a lot over the past few weeks and their uncompromising resilience to find a way forward and persevere during such a difficult and unprecedented time.
It’s the kind of commitment and genuine sense of care that is born from a natural desire to help others; to guide them through periods of life fraught with difficulty and turbulence that few others would dare involve themselves in.
And why do they do this? Why do good teachers continue to go far and beyond what should be expected of them in their job role, work long hours and, in many cases, act as part-time parents despite knowing they will have an entirely new class in just a few years and be required to start all over again? Because they feel duty-bound to do so.
I find it tragic that people like this can go through life without receiving the many plaudits and thanks they deserve. So, to address this, I have decided to write this blog about the most influential teachers in my life, the lessons they taught me, and why I’ll never forget them.
She taught me it was okay to feel – Mrs Shepherd
Mrs. Shepherd, of Prenton Primary School, was one of the kindest teachers I’ve ever had. So much so that, to this day, If I hear the word “empathy” (also a word she taught me how to spell!), I think of her.
She was my Year 2 teacher and, at a critical time in my childhood where I was preparing to leave the safe nest of Infants and begin my Junior School, she helped guide me through.
As a young, 6 year old boy, high off Batman: The Animated Series (remember that? It was great) and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (it wasn’t as great), I had started to place a lot of importance upon masculinity; attempting to adhere to the ridiculous “boys don’t cry” mentality. I thought I had to be tough, strong, and cool; the leading man in my own story. But I wasn’t that…not even close.
I was a shy, overweight, and highly emotional child who had a great internal struggle with my sense of self. Many of my classmates at the time had seen my unwillingness to participate in any class projects or playground activities as indicative of lazy and selfish behaviour, but Mrs. Shepherd was different. She was able to see past the false, outer shell I had constructed for myself and encourage me to talk about things openly and honestly without fear of judgement. She taught me it was okay to cry, to be myself, and take pride in my individuality.
Her lessons still guide me through difficult periods to this day and I will be forever grateful to her for contributing towards what I believe are some of the best things about myself.
She taught me to be kind – Mrs Todd
A sweeter person you will never meet. Mrs. Todd was my teacher in Year 4 and was one of the only teachers I’ve ever had who made me feel as though I was genuinely cared for outside of my home. In many ways, she treated me like a family member; encouraging me to try new things, acting as emotional support and even taking time out of her day to give me one-on-one tutoring in subjects I was struggling with.
With her unwavering support throughout my entire stay at Prenton Primary, I was able to achieve things both personally and academically which I had never previously thought possible.
I maintain to this day that I am richer for having known her, and I’m sure many other students who were fortunate enough to be in her class feel the same way.
He taught me to be loud – Mr Newns
My many friends and family members who have been irritated by my eccentricity over the years might not be so grateful, but I certainly am. Mr Newns taught me in Year 5; a loud, booming presence of a man who took pride in increasing his classroom’s confidence until they were just as operatic as him.
Although he had his work cut out with an introvert like me, he didn’t give up; continuing to encourage me wherever he could. Whether it was rooting for me to win ‘ribbon tag’ for my team in P.E or telling me how brilliant my mental arithmetic was in maths, he never stopped trying to use his charisma and classroom-influence to raise my self-esteem.
Thank you, Mr Newns, for giving me the confidence to be fun and impulsive, whilst remaining true to myself.
He taught me to laugh – Mr Gaddis
“Gaddis is a way of life” is a phrase I remember hearing from a friend of mine at Woodchurch High School, and there are few other ways to describe him. Mr Gaddis was my brilliantly entertaining Year 11 form tutor, whose enthusiasm, intelligence, wit and animated nature secured him top spot in everyone’s ‘Top Ten Teacher List’ for most of the time he was there.
Since working in education, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to keep a lid on a fresh class of year 11’s, but Mr Gaddis did it with aplomb; outsmarting and out-talking all of us on a daily basis. He was a veteran of this game and we were just another group of cocky newcomers.
Where Gaddis had us most beaten, however, was not with his sharp-tongue or encyclopedic knowledge, but his humour. He was an incredibly funny and down-to-earth teacher whom we respected greatly.
The most important lesson he ever taught me was that you don’t always need to be serious to be successful. I can only hope that the Year 11’s of today can have as great of a teacher as we did.
You know something crazy? I’m now 25 years old and I still remember all of these teachers like I attended their class yesterday. Why? Because teachers have a far more profound effect on our lives than many realise. They willingly undertake the incredibly difficult task of nurturing, guiding, and caring for us when we need it most and I’m incredibly thankful that I had so many exceptional people teaching me throughout my life.
If you are a teacher, please note that even when elements of your work seem thankless or in vain, that the children won’t forget you and what you do matters far more than you think.