Five Ways Teachers Inspire Me

By Vicki Phillips

Who was your favorite teacher? And why?

Your favorite teacher may not have been your favorite because he or she was soft or kind. There was likely more to it than that.

There might have been an edge to her. She might have made you uncomfortable. She might have said: “You can do this” when you said: “No, I can’t.” She believed in you more than you believed in yourself. So she put some pressure on you. And she got your effort because she asked for it, and you met her demands because she won your trust. Because you realized, “She cares about me enough to push me.” And she pushed you into places you didn’t think you belonged. Great teachers don’t just teach you; they change you.

When you think about what made your teacher so good, you can’t explain it with just tools and techniques; it was also his or her judgment, creativity, and personality that pulled you in and helped create the whole bond you had with your teacher.

The heart of learning is this connection between teachers and students. That is the centerpiece of school success: a teacher forming a bond with a student, triggering the student’s hunger to learn, and guiding it in the right way.

Teachers have always played an integral role in my life, and I’ve been fortunate to have strong bonds with teachers who believed in me, made demands of me, and lit up my hunger for learning. And when I became a teacher myself, my colleagues provided mentorship, taught me the value of collaboration, and showed me the fierce dedication the teaching profession demands.

So, Teacher Appreciation Week is especially important to me. It provides the opportunity to reflect on the teachers and education leaders who have made a unique, indelible impact on our lives. It’s a time to express our gratitude and let teachers know how powerfully they have affected us.

In celebration of our former, current, and future educators, I wanted to share five ways teachers inspire me:

1. Mentorship
It’s no surprise that teaching is not only one of the most challenging professions, but also one of the most rewarding. Stepping into a classroom can be overwhelming—especially for new teachers. But a supportive mentor provides the encouragement teachers need to see the rewards the profession holds.

2. Dedication
One of the quickest lessons I learned on my first day in front of a classroom is that teaching is not just a job. Rather, it’s a calling driven by the belief that all students deserve to reach their full potential. That’s why teachers continue to invest their time, energy, love, and resources to do what’s best for each of their students.

3. Collaboration
One of the things I cherish most about teaching is the creative collaboration and professional partnership among educators. Put simply: teamwork. People often envision teaching as one teacher in front of a classroom full of students. What they don’t see is the constant collaboration that allows teachers to share best practices and shift instruction to improve student learning.

4. Belief
There are several teachers whose lessons I still carry with me today. These teachers were more than just educators—they inspired me to be curious and to think differently about the world around me. They constantly challenged me, because they believed I could rise to the occasion. Their passion for teaching and commitment to my learning shaped the person I am today.

5. Impact
The most powerful force in education is the connection between teacher and student. This special bond is what leads to student empowerment and academic success. It is at the heart of learning. According to a study by Scholastic, an overwhelming majority of teachers chose the profession to make a difference in students’ lives, and work to fulfill  that purpose every day.

I will forever be grateful to and motivated by the teachers who have impacted my life, and the teachers I am privileged to work with every day. I am deeply inspired by the millions of teachers who positively impact the lives of students—not just this week, but every week. Here’s to all of you!

Thank you Ms. Russell, Ms. Leslie, Mr. Carman, Ms. Margery, Ms. Buchanan, Ms. Bright, Mr. Wardrip, Ms. O’Reilly, Ms. Macy – you made a difference!

Read the article by Vicki Phillips on Impatient Optimists at

Want to help #ThankATeacher?

Follow these four easy steps to show your appreciation with a personalized e-postcard:
1) Print, 2) Fill out, 3) Snap a photo of it, and 4) share your e-postcard on social media using the #ThankATeacher hashtag.

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