What is the impact of a teacher?

How far does it extend?

How many students do we positively affect?

We can’t accurately answer this.  Teachers are told we make a difference, and in our hearts we know we change lives. Yet, it’s hard to point to hard data that really captures the full extent of our impact.  Rather, we see glimpses of our impact: students coming in to thank us, or an email noting how we changed his or her life.  When evidence of our impact bubbles to the surface, it is powerful and refreshing, refueling our passion to teach and make a difference.

I read my high school students’ teacher belief statements this weekend and I had to share what I found.  I assigned this to my students enrolled in our school’s teacher academy – a program that encourages students to enter into teaching.  I was struck by how many of my students were going into teaching because of one teacher’s impact: emotionally, intellectually, or inspirational.

Here are 3 excerpts:

“There are a lot of reasons I chose to teach, but the most signficant one was this teacher I had during 7th grade – Mr. B.  He challenged us to learn at our full potential even though sometimes we learned difficult concepts.”

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“It all started when I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. K showed us that education could be fun!  She showed me a lot of individual attention that I hadn’t received before.  I could say I loved my teacher.  As I look back on what she did and how she went about it, I think about myself, how I act, and how I care about people like she did.

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One day in Language Arts class, Ms. B cried over a student that died due to a disease, and seeing that changed me perspective about teachers; teachers actually cared about students.  I thought since they cared so much and so do I about other people, that maybe teaching could become my career choice.

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I will scan the students’ belief statements and email them to the students’ former teachers with a simple note that reads, “You make a difference.”

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