Sunday, January 19, 2014

An Inspirational Teacher

"The Teacher Sharing Network" website exists because I want to be a teacher.  There are so many reasons why I want to be a teacher, but one particular teacher really influenced me.  I am where I am today because of him.  Teachers can make such big impacts on students' lives, and it is always great to share those inspirational stories. I was once asked to write about a teacher who inspired me to become a teacher, and would like to share my story for my first article on this website.

“It has been a true joy to teach every single one of you. When you're older and you look back at the time you spent in second grade, I want you to remember that when you persevere, you can do anything. But most of all, I want you to remember all of the fun times that we had in second grade. I hope you had the time of your life,” wrote Mr. K in an end of the year slide show.

Mr. K's positive attitude rubbed off on his students. He knew how to make learning fun. He was not only a terrific teacher, but a great role model as well. Mr. K impacted his students for rest of their lives, especially mine.

Towards the end of first grade, everyone discussed who they wanted as a teacher for the following year. The older kids talked about how funny Mr. K was, so he was the popular choice. Even parents wanted their child to have Mr. K since he was an award winning teacher. Many requested him to be their teacher, but he couldn't teach everyone. When the letter indicating that Mr. K would be my second grade teacher came in the mail, words could not describe my excitement. I was looking more forward to second grade than the summer. I was so excited to go to school, and that feeling never left during the entire second grade school year. With my permanent seat on the front-left side of the classroom, I never wanted to leave.

It is important for teachers to keep their students interested. Mr. K had a wide variety of teaching methods, but he used them in ways that made school and learning fun. He instantly transformed his lessons into something amusing. Many times, he turned lessons into games. A popular game that he played with the class was math kickball. It was identical to kickball, but in order to get a chance to kick the ball or advance to a base, the student had to answer a math problem correctly.

Also, we had a paper airplane contest. It might sound like something students play in detention, but it actually involved a lot of learning, and in a fun way. The airplanes we made had to fit into a specific category: how far it would go, how long it would stay in the air, and how to do the most tricks. We used critical thinking to get the airplanes to fit each requirement. Also, because we worked as a group, we learned to cooperate with one another.  In addition, our lessons were connected to real-life situations. For example, we kept check books, which helped us with adding and subtracting large numbers.

When I was in second grade, computers were not used as much as they are today, although they were starting to become more popular. Mr. K thought computing activities were important. Our class took many trips to the computer lab, where we worked on many projects. “I think working on the computer motivates students. It helps kids that are shy, by bringing out their creativity, and it really works on their problem-solving skills,” Mr. K told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999. Together, our class was able to create a web site.

Mr. K could easily put a smile on a face. His jokes were hilarious, and he knew how to turn a learning situation into humor. Laughing was guaranteed once you entered Mr. K's classroom. I don't think I have ever laughed harder in my life. His sense of humor was the perfect medicine to cure any sort of sadness. Some people joke at the wrong time, joke too often, or offend others, but Mr. K knew when it was appropriate to crack jokes, when it was time to stop, and never offended anybody.

Having a high self-esteem leads to a better academic performance for a student. The work I completed in second grade helped increase my self-esteem because I felt a sense of accomplishment. Mr. K taught us very advanced material for a second grade class. We were doing sixth grade mathematics, even though we were only eight years old! Additionally, we learned transitional words for our writings. Usually, transitional words aren't taught until middle school. By doing things that are normally beyond our age, I felt smarter. It gave me confidence that I could do anything, because I easily completed assignments that older students would typically receive.

Mr. K also gave each student a unique nickname that we all liked. Because my last name sounds like "Oreo", I was nicknamed Double-Stuffed after the cookie. The nicknames increased self-esteem because they made us feel a little bit cooler, as if we were apart of a special group.

Teachers need to find ways to get their students to work hard and behave well. Mr. Klass' method accommodated both. He gave out coupons that contained a point value. In order to obtain these coupons, a student had to answer a question correctly or be on their best behavior. Each coupon had a different point value, depending on how it was earned. He occasionally distributed “super coupons,” which were worth the most points. At the end of the year, the top three students with the most points would get to go to Chuck-E-Cheese, a popular place for young children. This also became a math lesson because the students had to keep track of their points by adding them up themselves. The coupons, which eventually led to the ultimate prize of a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese, motivated students to participate in class, do their work, and be on their best behavior. I was one of the lucky ones who earned a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese.

In addition, Sticker charts were used for motivation. Once the entire sticker chart was filled up, students were allowed to chose from a prize box, which contained prizes such as stuffed animals. There were several tactics Mr. K used to motivate students and reward them individually, but he also reward the group as a whole. The class had a “star chart,” which was located on the right wall. Once the class earned a certain amount of stars, more time outside the classroom was earned. However, Mr. Klass didn't always use that free time as recess. We would do a fun activity as a class that usually involved learning, like playing math kickball outside of math class. We were too busy having fun that we didn't notice that we were learning.

Mr. K helped me achieve my academic potential. Most second graders aren't advanced enough to read chapter books. Mr. K realized my reading potential and gave me the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to read. I read the book, but I wasn't really reading close enough to understand what was going on. Mr. K pulled me aside and asked me questions about the book. Not able to accurately answer, he figured that I skimmed the book without knowing the storyline. He told me parts of the book that he thought would spark my interest, and told me to re-read it. I obeyed, re-read the book, and found the book great. I understood it, and found it hilarious. To this day, Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remains as one of my favorite authors.

Sometimes teachers can have an influence beyond the classroom; Mr. K definitely had this effect on my life. I was painfully shy growing up, but Mr. K was able to help me. I did not have many friends in my class, so he pulled two girls aside privately and suggested that they should ask me to play with them at recess. They did, and I remained close friends with those two girls for several years. I was able to overcome some of my shyness thanks to the caring compassion of my teacher. It was comforting to know that my teacher wanted the best for me.

If I become a teacher, I want to model my style of teaching after my favorite teacher, Mr. K. I would not want my class to be bored; I would want them to be interested, like I was in second grade. I have a lot of fond memories from that class. Mr. K was a great teacher in so many ways. Learning became entertainment. I learned so much from him, even if I didn't realize that I was learning. I would love to impact a student like Mr. K impacted me. Mr. K couldn't have been more correct in his message during the end of the year video; looking back, I did have the time of my life.

Want to share your story about your favorite/most inspirational teacher? Leave a comment, tweet us at @teachsharenet, or email us at

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