So Much Depends on a Teacher

tutorSammy’s a first-year teacher. He’s in the final month of teaching 10th– and 11th-grade history at a public school in California.

He teaches classes of over 30 students, and he loves it.

I was curious to know what attracted him to teaching. He said it was a college history teacher. He added,

I was a lousy student. Had a GPA of 1.8. I mean I was a terrible student. Almost didn’t go to college. Nearly didn’t earn a degree. Then I had a history professor who got me hooked on the subject. I mean, my grades for every history class I took were 4.0. It’s what made me want to teach history. In fact, I’m working on my master’s degree now, too, because of him.

I said, “Sammy, I don’t believe you were a lousy student. How could you be? You earned As in all your history classes. I just think you hadn’t connected with any of your teachers up to that point. You hadn’t found what you loved.”

I added, “Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher. You love what you’re doing, and you have a lot of empathy“

Sammy said, “I’m lucky to teach my students. I learn from them all the time.”

Who’s the teacher who made a difference for you? Why?


  1. mrdardy on June 2, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Mr. Felps, my Calculus teacher in my senior year of high school. I never remember him talking for more than about 15 – 20 minutes in class. He’d go over an example of two from HW the night before, he’d introduce some new idea or skill and then he’d sit down and say ‘you’ve got work to do and so do I’ We’d work in small groups, we’d hash out ideas, and when we were stumped we’d go ask Mr. Felps for help. He showed us intellectual respect, he’d work through problems himself while we were working through them, and he did not seem to think that he was the only source of wisdom and knowledge in the room.

  2. Gayle on June 2, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Jim. It’s clear the influence he had on you, given what you do today. Mine was my HS chemistry teacher, Mr. Alfano. He gave 150% every class – high standards, knew all of us as people, and pushed us hard. He was incredible.