What Makes a Great Educator: Words of Thanks from the Edtech Community

By
Mary Jo Madda

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the typical Thanksgiving festivities--family reunions, attempting to not overcook the turkey, arguing over who gets the wishbone. But for a moment, we step back and remember that we wouldn’t be who we are today without the educators who made true and valuable impressions on us, both those who taught us and those who we work with. Principals, teachers, support staff, district administrators--you all deserve the highest praise and thanks. And as a result, here’s a small token of appreciation from the edtech community.

We thank you for your unfailing confidence in our abilities.

Teaching with passion: Miss Heines, my second grade teacher, delighted in teaching. Along with reading and writing, she taught us some nifty ski moves, how to sing “Tiny Bubbles” in Hawaiian and the melancholy lyrics to “City of New Orleans.” I loved her passion--and still remember the song lyrics! --Betsy Corcoran, EdSurge

Thank you, Kim Miller for teaching me how to be our students' biggest fan! I'm thankful for the personalized approach that you've shared with me during my time as a student teacher with you, and the 14+ years of our ongoing collaboration and learning together! May we always welcome failure as part of the learning process and find joy in the adventure of it all! --Marita Diffenbaugh, K-12 Instructional Technology Manager at Boise School District

Dr. Ann Marie Barry, Assoc. Prof of Communications at Boston College. As a first-generation college student, I was struggling to chart my course through the pressures of choosing a major that would result in a “good” job, and contemplating a switch to an accounting major. Prof Barry looked at me and said, “You belong in the world of ideas, Christine.” I barely knew what she meant at the time, but it opened a door in my mind that I stepped through and definitively shaped how I approached the question of what to do with my life. A teacher who knows something about you and names it before you can is a gift. --Christine Zanchi, WGBH

Never stop trying: Mrs. Filantres, who taught me reading and math in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, was ferocious in her insistence that not one of her students should stop working until we had given our absolute best. She always challenged us to think harder and differently than we ever had before, and as a consequence fostered in us a sense of curiosity, confidence, and enthusiasm for learning that we have all carried with us ever since. Most of my fondest elementary school memories come from her classroom, including throwing her a surprise birthday party (she was genuinely surprised), creating poems for shapes (“Ode to a Sphere”), and running a stock market simulation (I lost a lot of money.) She also taught me the meaning of the word “verbose” which this paragraph is in danger of becoming. --Michael Winters, EdSurge

We thank you for your willingness to both teach and mentor us.

I'm thankful for Vikki Proctor and Louise Sprengelmeyer, my very first mentor teachers who took a bouncy starry-eyed 21-year-old college grad under their wing to begin a journey to becoming an educational equity activist and bad-ass teacher. I'm also thankful for Shaye Whitmer (in above photo on the left), Lina Rose, Santosh Zachariah (in above photo on the right), and Eli Keltz--my current teacher colleagues who constantly push me to think deeper and stay nerdy. --Lindsey Own, Upper Division Teacher at The Evergreen School

Dr. Ken Hood recruited me into administration at the ripe age of 26. He was my advisor at UVM and the most divergent thinker I know. 22 years later we are still working together on projects that he dreams up to make school (and the world) better for students. Currently we are developing an international consortium of schools. I am always amazed at what he offers my thinking whenever we meet - and we meet often. --Ned Kirsch, Superintendent of Franklin West Supervisory Union School District

I'm grateful for my buddy Cody Plumhof who helped co-found the Southern Utah Educators Conference and works tirelessly to make sure it's an excellent professional development opportunity for educators across the Western states. He is a web developer by trade but has really taken to the PD world and puts on an excellent conference. Cody is amazing and I'm grateful to be associated with him! --Derek Larson, ‎4th Grade Teacher at Washington County School District

Destiny Woodbury is of the most impressive teachers I’ve ever seen. She literally dedicates her life to her students, and sets an incredible example for other educators. I had the joy of teaching my 6th grade science class across from her 5th grade science class, and I must say… talk about an inspiring example of teaching. --Mary Jo Madda, EdSurge

We thank you for your creativity and your ability to engage us.

I had my first encounter with student-centered instruction in 1st grade, when my teacher Mrs. Gross gave me the opportunity to showcase my learning with the class. At that time, I was an avid silent reader, but was quite shy around my peers. She encouraged me to lead the class in a read aloud of the classic "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." After weeks of practicing, I got to sit in the teacher's chair as I read. Although I'm sure my vocals were shaky - I remember the moment with pride, and I am so grateful for how she embraced the concept of students being teachers too! --Marisa Kaplan, EdSurge

Even though I became a software engineer, my oboe teacher Francisco Castillo (shown above) remains one of the most influential people in my life. He pushed me to achieve far more than I ever thought was possible and taught me to express music in ways even my rigid analytical mind could understand. Many of my most meaningful and memorable moments were motivated by music and they would not have been possible without my magnificent musical mentor. Muchas gracias, Chisco! --Brady Fukumoto, EdSurge

I will always remember Miss Spitz, the world history teacher I had in 11th grade, fondly. Not just because she had a hilarious name and occasionally wore Minnie Mouse ears, but also and probably largely because, she felt that showing us Monty Python’s History of the World Part 1 was reasonable curriculum for a high school history class. I am so thankful for having a high school teacher with such a great sense of humor! --Alice Myerhoff, EdSurge

I am thankful for educators who have taught before me and have not been afraid to challenge the status-quo and to bring technology into the classroom. I was thrilled this summer to have the opportunity to meet E. O. Wilson, biologist extraordinaire and now author of the eBook series "Life on Earth" (shown in photo above). --Julie Willcott, Science Teacher at Foxcroft Academy

We thank you for your true passion, and your ability to instill the belief that anything is possible.

Thank you Esther Wojcicki for teaching me that everything is something that can be changed, and to never stop dreaming big! You taught me that teachers can change the world. Thank you! --James Sanders, Director of Innovation for EdTech Team

I am forever indebted to Rick Redniss, my teacher in 4th and 5th grade. One of my favorite projects included making a giant Soma cube out of large cardboard boxes. My classmates and I then maneuvered the blocks into various recognizable shapes for a school assembly – it was a very early lesson in the importance of teamwork! Thank you, Rick, for teaching me that learning can be a lot of fun. --Amy McHugh, EdSurge

Ms. Batizy, thank you for all that you do for the students of USC Hybrid High. The way students drive their own learning in your classroom seems almost magical, but I know it takes a lot of work in the background to make that happen. Your dedication to our Trojans' learning is inspiring. Thank you! --Jessica Cohn, Director of Strategy & Implementation at Ednovate/USC Hybrid High School

We thank you for your innovative spirit, and willingness to push us to try new things.

The power of saying “Yes!”: Joan Peterson taught me about the power of improvisation and how it can help us in our daily lives. I went from taking her improvisation class, to helping her teach her improvisation classes, to teaching improvisation classes on my own for the last 10 years. I am thankful that showed me this wonderful path in life, and that she is still a dear friend. --Greg Becker, EdSurge

Ms. Charlotte Hafer, my second grade teacher, still holds a special place in my heart. She truly let me soar and explore everything that intrigued me - not just what was in the curriculum. Ms. Hafer never let my young age determine what I could or couldn’t learn. I still remember when she pulled me aside to show me the basics of algebra: my first exposure to letters in math opened up a whole new world for me! Thank you, Ms. Hafer, for nurturing my thirst to learn! --Katrina Stevens, EdSurge

Thanks to Emily McLaughlin. Always ready willing and able to try new tech initiatives in her classroom, Emily has helped transform the way we do things at Dreamyard Prep. I am thankful for everything she does and for her passion in doing it. --Rudy Blanco, Digital Learning Coordinator at Dreamyard Prep School

Please share a thought about a teacher or learning experience for which you are thankful in the comments section below!

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