Teachers play a very important role in their student's lives. They educate them, prepare them for the real world, and can sometimes be a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, they can completely change a student's life without even knowing it.
People on Reddit talk about their favorite former teacher. Content has been edited for clarity.
"Mr. Desjardins! He was my teacher back in elementary school, and the coolest guy ever. He was a huge guy, near seven feet tall, and his girlfriend was a powerlifter from Canada. Right before summer break would start, he would reach out to the parents of kids who struggled with subjects and offer to tutor them in his own free time. He also made sure we all had a firm understanding of reality, and how things actually worked.
I remember he would put up posters he made from tabloid covers ('Bat boy discovered in cave,' 'Hollow earth people attack North Pole base', etc.) in order to teach us the difference between pseudoscience and actual science. He would end the day by holding up a picture or reading us an article, and asking us if we thought it was real or fake, and having us explain/discuss why we thought what we did.
He also got the school to let him start a garden, and would invite us to help him with it after school or on the weekends. He and a bunch of parents showed us how to plant everything from flowers to corn.
Looking back, he definitely didn't just follow the normal teaching syllabus or rules. He was a shining example of a teacher who truly enjoyed watching kids learn, and wanted to prepare us for our futures as best he could."
"Fifth grade. I tested high in standardized tests as a kid, and a lot of teachers expected a lot out of me. I finished my work quickly, got bored, and then started disrupting the class. The teachers were then frustrated with me, and would treat me terribly or just separate me from my classmates. In first grade, I sat in the corner of the room, facing the wall, surrounded by those huge flip charts so I could not see any other kids. It sucked.
I was also a military kid so by the time 5th grade rolled around, I was at my 4th school. My 5th-grade teacher was the first to actually care why I was acting out and not simply just punish me for it. Her husband was a fighter pilot who flew the F-15, and she knew I loved airplanes. So she incorporated fun stuff like going to visit him and sit in the plane as rewards for staying on task. I'd get to sit in on briefings, and watch flight footage with the squadron. She would let me work ahead of the others and then use what I learned to help the other kids in class. This gave me a sense of purpose, and something to look forward to. I got to go do things outside of the class when I was done with work. I'd go help the office staff, the janitors, the lunch staff, etc. I'd join the 6th-grade classes for reading and math so I could stay challenged. In short, she was the first one to actually care whether I succeeded or not. Up until then, the teachers wanted me to make them look good. She wanted me to do good.
I credit a lot where I am at in life now to her. She was instrumental in turning things around for me. I sure wish I knew how to reach out to her to thank her but as is life in the military, we all move on."
"My fourth grade teacher. She was from Galveston, Texas. She was an amazing woman. She saw something was severely wrong in my life (I was being severely abused by my step father).
She pulled me aside one day before she let the rest of the class in ,and gave me a small stuffed husky that looked like and was thus named Demon (Snow Dogs 2002). Demon stayed with me, went to school and slept on my pillow, and helped me feel safe until it was stolen and destroyed by my step father a year later.
My heart breaks every time I think about that plushie. I have a picture where it's front and center on my bed. It's the only reason I still remember what it looks like."
"My chemistry teacher was a riot - the absolute epitome of 'cool science teacher'. Some of his antics included tossing a large 20 pound metal rod onto the floor to annoy the harpy of a math teacher next door, doing a thermite presentation (outside, since molten iron), and one time, he set a kid's calculator on fire with what was suppose to be a quick-burning substance.
Well, the calculator kept burning, so his solution was to blankly stare at it a moment and say 'Huh, well would you look at that.'
He then proceeds to chuck it out the window.
I also witnessed him tackle a kid who was in a fight with another kid. He was the first person in our town with a solar panel array too."
"High School Freshman US History. 7:00am. We were all groggy, and couldn't bring ourselves to care. Then our teacher came into the room. He was young, full head of hair, tortoise shell glasses and white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He took some chalk, and then by hand proceeded to draw an entire map of France, Germany, Poland and Russia, that was as good as any atlas.
He added capitals, drew major arrows for army groups, the whole ten yards. He then turned around, and proceeded to tell us in story format about the Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest battles in WWI. For those in the know, it was like Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. We were riveted. He described the trenches, the weapons being used for the first time, the birthing of a new type of war, a modern war. And the mud, my god...the mud...
After a few months of his US History class, I was in to history. Like I couldn't get enough of it. I wanted to learn more and more. I got the concept that history matters. If you learn from the past, you can somewhat predict the future, or get badly needed comparative context. But most of all, he made me care about something I couldn't have given two cares about in the past.
That's what a great teacher does. They make you care."
"I took three courses with this one amazing professor. I would see him every week for office hours because I was THAT kid, and during my second course with him he casually asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving. I told him the truth I wasn't doing anything. I wasn't welcomed at home and I didn't want their company anyway. Even though my grandparents hosted Thanksgiving, my mother would create drama if I showed up so I just was going to save the money and not do anything.
He asked if I was doing anything with friends who were sticking around. I said no. I had a couple of local friends, but weren't tight or anything.
He invited me over to his place for Thanksgiving. He said there would be a couple of his grad supervised students there so I wouldn't be the only kid there. I showed up and I was greeted by the most over the top stereotypical gay dude I've ever met, who was wearing a frilly apron and insisted on getting me some cookies and a hot cocoa.
'Well, I see you've met Roy,' he said.
I wasn't the only kid there, but out was pretty clear to me that I was the only straight person there. I remember at first thinking he should have told me that I would be...then after a couple of days I realized that that was ridiculous. That I was feeling what all of them must have felt in most of their social situations for most of their lives. I remember mentioning that to him a few weeks later and he just smiled back and said he thought I would get that and to never lose that capacity for empathy and introspection.
The following year I was going through a pretty rough time. My girlfriend had been assaulted. I won't get into the whole story, but I blamed myself . I had the energy to support her but not both of us, so I gave all of my energy to her. But I wasn't doing well. There was no academic policy about this as there is now in most universities. When I was talking with him about it, I couldn't go to school. I was going to withdraw from my courses, but I was past the deadline so there would be a penalty. He told me to withdraw from all of my other courses except his, and to get a mental health note from one of the therapists through student services so I could re-enroll next year without any academic penalty as I would have completed one course. I said I wasn't ready to go to even his class. He said to leave it to him, to hand in anything as my final term paper and he'd give me a passing grade and just show up to the exam and he'd figure something out.
If he hadn't done that and basically put his job on the line, I would have dropped out. Thinking back, I would have never finished school. I never would have re-enrolled that next fall. I would have just given up on my education and my life, working some awful job, never met my wife, not have the decent middle class life I have now. He showed me empathy when he had no reason to.
The man I would become became possible because of his empathy. He showed empathy to a kid who he knew had grown up in an abusive home, had had his brain poisoned by bigotry, racism and homophobia and came out the other side knowing they were wrong but not why it was important that they were. Dude straight up gave me a second shot at a life."
"My high school art teacher knew I couldn't afford art supplies to work on my portfolio. She gave me a basket of ink pens, sketchbooks, and a 100 piece set of Derwent colouring pencils - a very expensive, high-end brand. She offered them after school so the other kids and teachers wouldn't see, and pretended she found them lying around even though the items were clearly brand new.
At the end-of-year art show she also knew I didn't have family, so she spent the entire time hanging around my exhibit and showing the other parents my work. At graduation she offered to buy my art. I was attached to my pieces, so I said no - didn't realize she was essentially offering money to help me through my first year of university."
"In 8th grade, I was going through a lot of familial turmoil. After abandoning my family, my mother returned to find out she had cancer. She eventually died. My math teacher was the only one who seemed to care. The other ones went on as if nothing was happening. Math was never my strong study and heck, it still isn’t. He always asked if I was okay, if I understood what was going on, if I needed help. The day I came back after my mom passed, he didn’t do much in class that day which was unusual. He let it be a working class and we just worked on problems without learning anything new.
He is the reason I can even do math now. I always had to have extra help during lunch or whatnot from tutors. His extra attention made it so I didn’t require that anymore.
That semester I actually got on the honor roll, for the first time in years. Math always held me back but because of his help, I finally got there."
"A teacher I had back in secondary school was just an amazing person. When he first joined the school he helped us finish off our English Literature class. Then the year after, he taught Media Studies and a bit of Sociology as well. He was one of the deputy heads of the school, but so nice.
He was the sort you could have a good conversation with about anything really. Sometimes he’d even forget he was meant to be teaching, and just talk to us about his home life with trying to raise his two (later three) children.
Plus he really helped me out when I decided to change universities, and needed to write my own application. Even though I had left that school about 6 months before, he helped me write my personal statement and make sure everything else was as good as it could be. I got accepted, so he really helped me there."
"So I was a difficult kid to deal with. I wasn't bad, exactly, but I was easily bored and easily lost in things that actually caught my attention. So I was very disruptive and didn't pay attention.
In fifth grade I had a teacher that didn't seem to care about it at all. He didn't punish me or act like I was doing something wrong. He just said this is a 5/6 split and if I finish the fifth grade stuff, then I can try the grade 6 stuff. I flew through that stuff and loved it.
He was the first teacher that really turned things around for me.
In the following years, I encountered a couple people I consider to be way more intelligent than I am. But they only succeeded when they could have a slower pace. It's not directly related, but these things together really make me think our education systems need to be revisited. The way it was and unfortunately still is only makes a small sliver look intelligent and that's not accurate at all."
"The last three years of my life, I've been struggling a lot with mental illnesses, going through a misdiagnosis, a lot of terrible therapists and an unholy amount of medication in the past year. As well as that, I finished my Leaving Cert last June (the last year in secondary school in Ireland), so I had a lot of added stress on top of it.
My school had 2 very horrible people in charge; an uncaring principal who only cares about the money and image of the school, and a vice principal who's known to think mental illness isn't very serious. So many horror stories come from meetings between them and students who were told if they weren't just attention seeking they'd end it already. I wasn't given any assistance for my ongoing issues and the school counsellor was useless (she was a chaplain and a huge brat).
Anyway that just gives a bit of context as to why this teacher was so amazing to me at the time.
He was my art teacher for my last two years in secondary school. We'll call him 'Stan' because that's sorta his name.
Stan basically kept the school functioning. He sorted all technical difficulties and in that terrible place there was a lot of them. He's super chill, and at this stage in his career is really just in it for the laughs.
We had a lot of similar interests, which was rare because I'm a bit of a nerd and can usually only find people with those interests online. We had gotten along great from the start as well because we had the same humour. I was one of his favourite students too because I wasn't too bad at art. At the time, no therapy and medication was working for me. School was kicking my butt. I was breaking down every single day I went. My attendance was almost non existent. After a while of hiding in bathrooms, I would occasionally stop by the art room to visit Stan when I couldn't handle classes. I didn't expect it, but he would let me chill out in the art room since it helped me feel better. It became a regular occurrence when I was feeling terrible. He would know when I wasn't feeling the best, but he would never push the topic if i didn't want to talk.
If I felt I couldn't work on my own art for whatever self deprecating reason, he would say ok and give me small bits of work to do in the art room to keep my mind occupied. He would keep my favourite sweets in the store room for me. It really was just all of those little things that made a huge difference for me when it felt like everything else in the world was stacked against me. It was the only thing that gave me any sort of peace or even happiness for a long time.
Art ended up being my subject with the highest grade because he helped me find a way to be interested in art history. He helped figure out what gets me to learn things easier. This man seriously went above and beyond for me for no reason other than he thought I could use a little extra help. It's amazing the difference that one good teacher can make.
I still visit him regularly after graduating about 6 months ago. He's basically family now. I can never thank that man enough. He seriously saved my life more than once."
"My biology teacher for my 2nd, 5th and 6th year of middle/high school.
I went into a slump somewhere around 4th grade, because I had to redo a year and that meant that all my classes were filled with strangers. My grades started to plummet really fast; they went from 7.5/10 to 5.5/10 (aka the minimum grade needed to pass). The first test of my 5th year rolls around, and I absolutely tanked it, I think I got a 3. After class we talked, and he said I could go to his office after classes to review the test I made, I started doing that with every biology test I had.
Biology is my best subject by far, and to get poor grades was really disheartening. Every teacher told me got more in me than I was showing, but he was the only one that took time out of his day to help me. It meant a lot to me, I finally started getting some motivation to study again and my grades kept going up. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have ended high school with the grades I did."