It Mattered To Me…the Power of a Teacher

The powerful influence a teacher can have on the life of a student. We all have the power to make a huge difference with small effort.

teacher in front of a classroom

As people, and I think especially women, I think we often get down on ourselves for not having accomplished much. Of course, this “much” is according to the world’s view of “much.”

In truth, as mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, neighbors, etc. we do a whole lot that means a lot to people. We may not have written a book, been famous, or invented something amazing, but we do touch the lives of generations.

We did this fun thing at church on Sunday that in light of Memorial Day was great.

In church, some people shared how someone seemingly ordinary in their lives had done something simple to touch the lives of either themselves or even on up to hundreds in posterity.

I thought it would be fun to do that here. We can share what someone did and what impact it had on us, and in turn, hopefully inspire each other to take heart in our “normal, everyday” roles and know that we can and will make a difference that matters to others.

I will share a simple one. This is about my favorite teacher, Mrs. LaFlamme.

I had her in seventh grade for honors English class. She was fabulous, but her strongest influence came when I was in ninth grade. I had not made it into honors English for tenth grade because the tenth grade teacher didn’t like a citizenship grade I had received in Biology that year.

I was a good student and respectful–this Biology teacher was the wrestling coach and would literally wrestle the boys in class, so class was a bit wild and chaotic as a whole and we all got lower than the highest citizenship.

When Mrs. LaFlamme found out that I had been denied honors English for tenth grade, she took action. She talked with the tenth grade teacher and insisted I be in the class. The teacher agreed to allow it, and in the end she was glad she had.

Now, this had a huge impact on me. I not only appreciated how much Mrs. LaFlamme believed in me, but it kept me in the honors English track, and my degree was later in English.

I don’t know if I would have pursued English as a degree had I not been in advanced English courses. I also don’t know if I would have felt comfortable writing this blog without the intense writing training I received as an English major. So Mrs. LaFlamme had a huge impact on my life and your life!

At the end of high school, I recognized this impact and wrote her a thank-you note. She so appreciated it, and now as a woman who does the seemingly mundane day after day, I can see why it would mean so much to her. We do so much and get very little feedback for it.

Okay your turn! Who has influenced your life? A relative? Teacher? Leader? Friend? Please share.

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8 thoughts on “It Mattered To Me…the Power of a Teacher”

  1. In college, I worked summers as a wonderful treatment center for kids who had been abused and neglected to the point that they had no idea how to form relationships with anyone. They had been hurt in unimaginable ways. Somehow, they always knew what their parents, and especially their moms, "should" have done to protect them. It was stunning how clearly they could see the childhoods they had and the childhoods they should have had.So, our job was to teach them to form healthy relationships with adults, and try to give them some normal childhood experiences. One time, we took them to a camp in the mountains. There were 8 kids and 3 adults in our cabin. I had spent the first half of the night sick in the bathroom (which was about 100 yards away in the woods) and was still awake when one little boy, about 6 years old, cried out that he had to go to the bathroom. While another lady and I fumbled around for shoes and a flashlight, he couldn't hold it anymore, and soaked his pajamas and the floor. She got the lucky job of cleaning up the floor at 2am, and I took his sticky little hand, a change of clothes, and a flashlight – and together we walked through the woods in the dark to the bathroom.He changed and we got cleaned up. I glanced at myself in the mirror – pale, exhausted, in my glasses and an awful hooded sweater. I was so tired.I took him back to the cabin, tucked him in, and crawled into my sleeping bag for what was left of the night. The next morning, when we were all at breakfast, I teased him that I must have looked pretty funny in the night. He said, very solemnly, "You looked like a mom."To this day, that is the greatest compliment I have ever gotten in my life. To him, he was just a little boy who was telling some lady that she'd done a good job helping him clean up a midnight accident, but to me, it meant so much. This little boy's mom had been so abusive – and I had been, for one night, the mom he had never had.It's affected me as a mother, now with my own children, to remember that it's these little things, the times we take care of our kids when what we really want is our own moms to come and take care of us, that are the true foundation of raising them. I remember this little guy often, and how his words have inspired me to be a better mother to my own kids!

  2. I grew up in a very musical family. Both of my parents are very gifted musicians and they instilled both a love and talent for it in all 5 of their children. However, it was not their choice for their own careers nor did they desire the same for their kids. They emphasized that the lifestyle of the entertainment industry was not cohesive with our backgrounds in religious faith. They also frequently mentioned the instability it would be financially. None of my siblings ever pursued the arts after high school in their education – only as an occasional hobby or outlet with their free time.Because of this, I had intended to be a Psychology major (once I got past the whole "ballerina-astronaut-published author" fantasies). My freshman year of college, I was in the song-&-dance group for the school (one of the main reasons I chose to attend that specific college). My teacher (the director of the group), John Tebay, was giving me a ride to one of our performances. When he found out I was a Psychology major, this normally easy-going and passive man chided me. He told me that he knew I was meant to pursue my music. He felt that I had it in me to go far with it, even if it weren't in a performance capacity. He told me he felt in his gut that I was one of those people meant to teach and bring my gift to others. And he wanted me to know that he didn't tell this to just any of his students. He was often a favorite teacher for many, and it meant the world to me to be singled out by him. I didn't change my studies at that time, but what he said, and how he'd said it, hit me really deep.2 years later, as I was looking into transferring schools, on a whim (literally, the day before auditions) I decided to audition for the Music Dance Theatre Program at BYU because of this nagging in the back of my mind in John Tebay's voice. When I didn't hear back when I was supposed to, I assumed I'd been rejected. Turns out, I hadn't been accepted to BYU due to a "W" on my transcript from my freshman year of college. However, the program wanted me and offered me a scholarship in exchange for the school admitting me in spite of my low mark. I graduated from BYU in 2005 with a BFA in Music Dance Theatre and with no student loan debt (thanks to a scholarship). My senior year, I was offered a role in a national tour as well as in an offbroadway production in NYC (both of which I turned down as I had just found I was pregnant with my 1st child). Some day, when my kids are much older, I hope to teach high school music (which I've done in the past, and it fits me so well). And this was all due to a teacher at a junior college in a small Orange County town.

  3. My grandma and grandpa were like my second parents – the way they were there for me and my siblings was nothing ordinary! But one of the main benefits I got from them was witnessing their happy, strong marriage. Without them, I would not have had that example. My grandpa always told me that, although some people think that each person in a marriage should give 50% of the effort, that's not true. Each person needs to give 100%. Sometimes he would grin and change that to 110%. My marriage is so important to me and I am determined to try to live up to his advice.

  4. My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Haskel, had a great impact on me as a good teacher and also by a couple of things he said to me that I've kept with me. One day while he was out of the room, some kids were carrying on inappropriately. I wasn't really taking part but I also didn't speak up against it and when he came back it looked like I was part of it. I was embarrassed. He told me later that he thought I was better than that and I shouldn't just go along with the crowd. At the end of the year we all signed a card for him and some kids said how much they loved him, he was the best teacher in the whole world and other kids went the other way and said how terrible he was(!) etc., and I wrote something like, I think you're an okay teacher. Such flattery! 🙂 He told me that's what he liked about me, that I did my own thing and didn't cave to peer pressure and that I should work to keep those qualities. I wish I could remember exactly what he said (since I doubt he said peer pressure, but you know what I mean) but the sentiment really stuck with me. I was proud that he noted something about me which made me feel special and also gave me something to think about and work toward. He's still one of my favorite teachers and he probably has no idea that such small statements could stick and remind me to do what's right as they have.

  5. Kristin I think you are right–we have no idea what small things we do as parents/mentors that have a life-long impact on people!


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