Student Well-Being Opinion

#ThankaTeacher on Teacher Appreciation Week (and Every Day)

By Starr Sackstein — May 09, 2019 4 min read
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It is surely no cliche that behind every success story is a teacher.

Teaching is the hardest but most rewarding job there is. As educators, we are responsible for shaping the minds of every child and to hopefully inspire them into the way they, in turn, change the world.

Over the years, the best recognition I received came in the way of student emails, letters, and/or thank yous, never expected but always appreciated.

As a matter of fact, I still have some hanging in my new office for tough days. When I was in the classroom, I kept them in my desk as a reminder of how important the work we do is.

On a particularly hard day, I may pull one out, reread it, and connect with the higher calling. Not every day is a masterpiece but every day is an opportunity to stretch the way we think and grow as human beings. That looks different each time.

So for teacher appreciation week, I’d like to thank a few students who have made teaching a real privilege.

To Jenna, you were committed to excellence from day one. When I provided feedback, within minutes, you were making adjustments, not for a better grade but because you were so invested in growing. Watching you become a teacher has been a joy and a pleasure, and I’m certain that your students feel the same way.

To Aliyah, you were one of the very first students to touch my heart. You came from a really challenging situation and you have managed to make beauty out of those challenges. Every day you show your strength and commitment to living a happy life even when others tried to tell you who to be and how to live.

To Peter, many said you were capable of so much but didn’t apply yourself. I knew the second I met you that you were ready to be challenged and not judged. You are so talented, in your own way, and you needed no one to validate it; you just needed to be seen, heard, and acknowledged and then allowed to do things your way.

To Shawn, the student who had my back first. Although many teachers had stories about you, that was not my experience. You were harder working and committed to your learning than even you knew at the time. I will never forget your Greek mythology homework that started an upward trend of success. You are a leader, and regardless of the challenges, you continue to succeed. You are an inspiration.

To Barbara, you are truly an amazing writer and artist. In your quiet way, you were able to communicate great strength and thought well beyond your years. Working with you was humbling in that I wasn’t always sure how to help you build the confidence in yourself that I knew you needed to see yourself the way I see you.

To Luca, you are not only a talented artist but you are a well-rounded young man poised to change the world. Your compassion and thoughtfulness are always appreciated, and my son still remembers you and even still asks about you.

To Lara, you tirelessly work to find peace with yourself and struggled to do so, but I and many others saw how truly inspiring you are. Despite your challenges, you never give up. Always looking for a solution, always the quickest to help someone else. Your kindness is never forgotten, and watching your continued journey is so special.

To Melissa, you bravely got in front as the editor in chief of our student newspaper, never afraid to say what needed to be said. You knew the facts and shared them. We had each other’s backs in the early days, and it is amazing to watch you on your journey now. I’m certain that you will make an impact.

To Nick, although we didn’t connect in class the way I had hoped we would, it wasn’t until an unlikely summer school pairing and your graduation that we did. Your maturity and unique perspective on the world is a breath of fresh air. May you continue to create music and good food for all the world to enjoy.

To Alicia, my birthday twin who always came to class smiling. Your hard work and perseverance was a hallmark of your success, and you never let a challenge scare you away. It was a true pleasure to teach you.

To Fernando, mature beyond your years and a little distractable in high school, but boy could you write. Despite your challenges, I knew that in your own time you would find your voice and do something great and I know you have.

To Christina, when you told me you became an English teacher because of my class the day I announced I was leaving WJPS, I wanted to cry. There is no greater compliment to me than knowing that your passion for teaching started in our time together. I know you will do the same for your students. Hang in there, teaching is hard but sooooo rewarding.

As I continue to consider the endless list of students who have made an impact on my life, even if you haven’t been named specifically here, I can see your faces and remember our conversations. In 16 years in the classroom, I have had the honor of teaching thousands of young people and learning from them, as well, every day.

One last shout out to the amazing colleagues I’ve had over the years. Your friendship and camaraderie have helped shape me into the teacher I have become.

On this teacher appreciation week, who would you like to thank? Please share

Photo by Starr Sackstein

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