Stories from Teacher Appreciation Month

Teachers & Principals | 05/31/2018

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Manager, Stand for Children Washington

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Month, we collected stories from our team members of the most influential teachers in their life. Here is a collection of those stories.

She built my tenacity
Darcelina Soloria, Spokane Organizer

When I was in second grade, I had the coolest choir teacher.

She drove a convertible VW Bug, wore lots of crazy jewelry, and was very outspoken. She also taught me how to fail.

I’m honoring my second-grade choir teacher. It was her teaching style built my tenacity early in life.

Singing has always come easily to me, so I never had trouble earning a top seat in her choir room. Until one week – it was a bad week – I botched the singing challenge and ended up in the second to last chair. I was distraught.

With her encouragement, however, I learned to shake off the disappointment and channel my energy into giving my best performance ever the next week. I ended up back in first chair and learned the important lesson that failure is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s an opportunity to grow.

At Stand, I’m proud that we’re championing policies to give every teacher more opportunities to connect with and support their students.

When it comes to doing what’s best for kids, teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling. I’m proud to honor my 2nd-grade choir teacher and the important lessons she taught me early in life.

Mrs. Angle took me under her wing
Sara Irish, South Sound Organizer & Parent Engagement Coordinator

I was an exchange student, and Mrs. Angle took me under her wing.

When I was in high school, I enrolled in an exchange program that took me from my home in Cuernavaca, Mexico to Bellefontaine, Ohio. Although the language barrier was hard for me at first, Mrs. Angle became my mentor.

She tutored me after school, advocated for me with other teachers, and took the time to expose me to new ideas.

Her encouragement was limitless. She always believed in my potential and supported me to become my best self.

In my work as an Organizer with Stand, I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with schools, educators, and parents to support their students the way that Mrs. Angle supported me. 

I’m honoring Mrs. Angle.

She taught me how to write
Virginia Barry, Policy & Government Affairs Manager

I was sixteen, and Mrs. Mrozek’s first period AP US History class started 15 minutes before the first bell, but I didn’t care because it was the best hour of the day.

Fifteen years later, I clearly remember the care she brought to every lecture she delivered and essay she edited. I learned how to construct a written argument in her class, and I still use many of the skills I learned from her when I’m writing policy briefs for Stand.

I started my junior year of high school with sub-par study skills and mediocre grades, but Mrs. Mrozek began to drop hints that I not only had the potential to get an A in her class, but a 5 on the AP exam (the highest grade you can receive). Her belief in me flipped a switch and I kicked my studying into overdrive, color-coding my notes and drawing out 200-year timelines on butcher paper.

By the end of the year, I had achieved both – an A in the class and a 5 on the exam. Of course, the AP credit didn’t relieve me of having to take history classes in college, but that was because I went on to major in the subject, thanks in large part to Mrs. Mrozek.

How I found my people
Katie Gustainis, Marketing & Communication Manager

As I started my freshman year of high school, I wasn’t sure yet which “crowd” I belonged in.

It was the coach of my spelling team, Mr. Rike, who suggested that I attend a speech and debate tournament to see if I was interested in joining the team. (Surprise: he was also the debate coach.)

Watching a senior team member debate about the ethics of nation-building, I was entranced. I quickly joined and not only found that I was good at it, I loved it.

Mr. Rike was my coach for a few months at the end of freshman year before he took a position at a different school, but his passion ignited a spark in me.

His encouragement led to the state speech championships (which I won), a scholarship to join my college speech team, my graduate degree in communications, and ultimately, a career as a communications professional fighting for a better education for every kid in Washington.

Although Mr. Rike was never officially my teacher, what he taught me was that finding your place in the world – your “crowd” – is about doing what you love. That’s how we find our people.

On the night of my senior homecoming, I got a phone call that Mr. Rike had died in a car accident. He hadn’t been my coach for over two years, but the impact he had on my life was so profound that thinking of it now still wrenches my heart.

This month, during Teacher Appreciation Month, I’ve been thinking of Mr. Rike and the legacy he left behind. I’m proud to be part of that legacy. How many of us have a teacher to thank for where we are today?

I know Mr. Rike would be proud of me today.

How I got started
Libuse Binder, Executive Director

I went to a combined middle and high school with fewer than 300 students, so I was fortunate to see one of those teachers three times – in 7th, 9th, and 11th grade.

Mr. Newton was my English teacher, and from encouraging me to write to introducing me to new authors, he fostered my love of the written word.

What’s more, he instilled in me the belief that I could become anything I wanted. He helped me to be fearless about tasks and undaunted by large obstacles.

Years later, when I was simultaneously teaching, writing my first book, and getting a graduate writing degree, I thought of Mr. Newton and what a positive impact he had on my life. 

He trusted us
Brooke Brod, Organizing Director

V.K. was my high school drama teacher from 9th – 12th grade.

What made V.K. such an incredible teacher is the way he truly trusted students and gave us freedom to make decisions.

Every fall was dedicated to student directed, designed, and acted one-act plays. Students were able to choose whatever play they wanted (and we chose some pretty challenging material) and we ran the auditions and created design teams. Having that much control over our learning meant we were incredibly invested in what we were doing.

It’s rare to have an adult place so much faith in you when you are a young student, and it made a huge impression on me and on many other students.

If education is important to you, consider volunteering with us to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be taught by teachers like these. 

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