Teachers who shaped lives 

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A sketch of a small classroom, with a teacher speaking to some students. Thought bubbles show the students dreaming of their passions.
This is not a very realistic classroom, however, since at least one student would then be asleep. Mohamed_hassan via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

A good teacher can make you see yourself in new ways

by tishaben patel, contributor

As we travel through life, we come across a plethora of people who have a significant impact on us. For many, instructors are among the people who leave a permanent impression on our hearts and minds. They are the people who guide and influence our development through life, sharing information, intelligence, and life lessons that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. 

A life-changing educator has certain qualities that sets them apart from the rest. Firstly, they have a keen enthusiasm for their area of expertise, which is infectious and motivates their students. They have a deep understanding of the field and are able to communicate complex ideas in a straightforward and relatable way.  

They are patient and understanding, taking the time to cater to the personal needs of each student. They are excellent listeners, offering empathy and creating a stable and supportive environment for learning. Life-changing instructors also have the capacity to recognize and sustain the interesting qualities and gifts of their pupils.  

They encourage inventiveness and reflection, pushing their students to think outside the box and see things from new perspectives. They provide helpful feedback, making a difference in their students’ development – both as scholars and as people. These instructors accept their students and instill in them a sense of certainty and self-belief that stays beyond the classroom. 
One prominent example of such an instructor is Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Dr. Radhakrishnan was a rationalist, researcher, and statesman who briefly served as the President of India. But long before that, he was a teacher, and it was his encounters within the classroom that shaped his worldview and his approach to authority.  

Dr. Radhakrishnan accepted that instruction was not merely giving information, but also motivating students to develop an identity as learners and thinkers. He commented that teachers had a duty to support the minds and spirits of their students and to assist them in becoming responsible, moral, and compassionate people.  

He was known for his captivating and exciting words, and for his capacity to reach the minds of his students on a deeper level. In India, his birthday – Sept 5 – is celebrated as Teacher’s Day. 
Another inspiring story of an instructor who changed everything is that of Jaime Escalante. Escalante was a high school math instructor in East Los Angeles who inspired his pupils to achieve extraordinary things. He accepted that each child had the potential to succeed, regardless of their backgrounds or circumstances, and he worked closely with his students to help them reach full potentials.  

Escalante’s most popular accomplishment was his work with some students who went on to pass the Progressed Arrangement Calculus exam, an accomplishment that was previously unheard of for students from low-income foundations. His devotion to his students and his faith in their potential motivated many others to pursue their dreams, and he became a symbol of how a good education can shape and transform lives.  
A few other incredible instructors who truly made a difference in their students are Erin Gruwell and LouAnne Johnson, who each had movies made about their stories. Both movies emphasize the transformative power of a teacher’s conviction and kindness in changing the trajectory of their students’ lives. 

Gruwell taught English to a group of students that most other teachers had given up on. She used inventive teaching strategies to help them succeed, a story captured in the movie Freedom Writers.  

Johnson, a former Marine turned high school instructor, connected deeply with her students. Johnson gave moral support and direction to help them overcome their challenges, as portrayed in the movie Perilous Minds.  
In all of our lives, countless instructors have changed everything for their students in less dramatic, yet no less significant ways. Many people I spoke to credited their instructors with helping them overcome challenges, find their interests, and become the individuals they are today.  

One person talked about how their high school English teacher helped them come out of their shell and discover their passion for writing. They recalled how their teacher motivated them to share their stories, and how she made a difference in their life by noticing the importance of their voice and stories. These experiences eventually led them to seek a career in news reporting. 

Another person shared how their middle school science teacher made a difference by helping them with their fear of failure, encouraging them to ask questions and experiment. This experience helped them develop the confidence and resilience they needed to pursue their dreams, and they credit their teacher with helping them find the courage to face new challenges.  
These stories are just a few examples of the countless ways in which teachers change everything for their students, every day, all over the world. They are the ones who inspire us to be better, do better, and think better. They are the ones who help us discover our passions, our strengths, and our potentials. They are the ones who shape our lives in ways that we may not even realize until then.  

The impact that teachers can have on their students is immeasurable. Whether they are national leaders like Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan or local heroes like Jaime Escalante, Erin Gruwell, and LouAnne Johnson, or one of the often overlooked but dedicated individuals who go above and beyond the call of duty every day, teachers have the power to change everything for their students.  

They are the ones who inspire us to reach for the stars, and who give us the tools we need to get there. For that, we will always be grateful. 

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