Who are your heroes?

There are many different reasons that people go into teaching. I am still not sure how I got here, but I do know that I am supposed to be here. I can’t really explain it, but I feel at home in the classroom. Teaching gives me a sense of purpose and I know that I have an opportunity to touch the lives of my students every day. One thing that is probably true of all teachers, no matter what grade level, is that we all have been students at one point in our lives and we all have had teachers that we admire. I think it is good to reflect on these teaching heroes every so often, because they shape the way that we teach, even if we don’t realize it. Take some time today to think about the teachers that have influenced your life. What made your favorite teachers so good? How can you learn from their example? If you can locate them, send them a little note to say thank you. Here are a couple of my teaching heroes, ironically, they are all science teachers:

  1. Ms. McAlister (9th grade chemistry) – Ms. McAlister made chemistry fun. By the time I finished her class I was an expert in stoichiometry. I could convert grams to moles in no time. I remember that she used games in the classroom to make a pretty dry topic fun. She was enthusiastic about science and I can’t remember a time when she let our teenage B.S. get in the way of learning. She was also the advisor for the science fair. I was terrible at putting together science fair projects, but she worked with me and let me make my own mistakes.  As I teach I try to bring a spirit of enthusiasm like Ms. McAlister. I also try to give my students room to succeed (or fail) on their own.
  2. Dr. Gilmer (undergraduate biochemistry) – To be honest, I have mixed emotions about Dr. Gilmer. She was one of those teachers that was very interested in alternative teaching strategies and group work. We spent a large portion of our class building websites about biochemistry topics. I left the class feeling like I learned more about HTML than biochemical reactions. On the other hand though, I have a great grounding in protein structure and I learned a ton about prions during her class. What I admired about Dr. Gilmer is that she wasn’t afraid to break free of the mold. While my friends were bored to tears in their lecture based biochem course, I was at least somewhat more engaged in the material in my non-traditional course. I think I can learn both from what I liked about her class and what I didn’t.
  3. Dr. Cole (graduate school immunology)– Dr. Cole is what students might term a hard ass. He was a no nonsense instructor. He did not accept excuses. You were either prepared for class or you weren’t. He was incredibly knowledgeable in his subject area and I learned a ton from him. His class was part lecture based and part paper review. Each week we were required to read a scientific article. We would be expected to stand up in front of the class and present a portion of the paper at random. It was terrifying, but it forced me to be disciplined about preparing for class. Sometimes I think about Dr. Cole and I worry that I am too easy on my students, it is something that I continue to work on.

These are just a few of the teachers that have influenced me. How about you? Who was your best teacher? How do these teachers still influence you today?

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