When was the last time you thought about your teachers? For me, with grade school long over, it's been a while. But when we started the My Amazing Teacher project at Parenting.com, which collects video tributes to awesome past teachers, it surprised me how quickly one name jumped to mind—and how clearly, to this day, I remembered her effect on me.
Mrs. Christman was my sixth-grade math teacher at Steffen Middle School, in Mequon, WI. Math was far from my favorite subject, and with my friends excelling in advanced classes, I went into the class feeling left behind. I was never one to be negative about school, but I figured math was something I'd just never be good at—The End.
But, as I learned in Mrs. Christman's class, that's never a good attitude to have—not only about math, but anything in life. She showed me how much attitude plays a part in success (hint: if you have a good attitude, your chances of success greatly increases). I clearly remember her helping me through a math problem, and when I got the right answer, she said, "O, ye of little faith!" I had no faith in my math abilities—but she did, and she taught me to have faith as well.
I never became a math whiz, but I always remembered that. When I was awarded Student of the Month sophomore year in high school, guess which subject it was in? Yes, math! Not because I had a natural gift for numbers, but because I gave it my best, and had faith that I could do well if I put my mind to it—all thanks to Mrs. Christman.
So I made my video tribute to Mrs. Christman, for everything she taught me, and for everything I remember about her. I sent her the link to the video in an email, hoping that the email address worked, and that she still taught at Steffen, and that, at best, maybe she'd see it.
Her response the next day was far beyond anything I'd expected. Not only did she see the video—yay!—but she wrote an extremely moving email about how much it meant to her. "What a wonderful surprise to find a message from you when I opened my email this morning!" she wrote. "Now I struggle to find words to express how deeply honored I feel to be the subject of your video. You have given me a precious gift—one that I will forever cherish.
"Prior to opening your message today, I was having one of those days where I question my effectiveness as a teacher. Since viewing your video, I have pretty much not stopped crying. Of course I’ve watched it about 20 times, and each time I start crying all over again. To say you have made my day is an understatement; you have made my career."
Then it was my turn to cry, and my turn to feel deeply honored. All I did was what everyone should do for their teachers: thank her. Thank her for coaching me through a tough subject with the perfect mix of kindness and firmness; thank her for having faith in my abilities, especially when I didn't; and, most of all, thank her for being a truly amazing teacher who I'll always remember.
With teachers facing tough times with school budget cuts, it's more important than ever to thank them for all they do. Everyone has at least one amazing teacher who changed us forever—you'll be surprised at how much a simple "thank you" means to them.