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Who Was Your Favorite Teacher?

This week is teacher appreciation week. Which teacher do you most remember?

Teachers.

We trust them with our most precious charges: our kids.

And by extension, teachers along with parents, build the foundation for our kids' future successes.

There are more than 7.2 million teachers in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Many of them are unsung heroes, who work long, long hours not just being teachers, but also mothers and fathers, nurses, counselors, peacemakers and disciplinarian.

For the important role they play, they don't necessarily make a lot of money.

And they face a lot of pressures to turn kids, many of whom come to school unprepared, into standardized test score successes.

They don't get enough praise for the work that they do.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week.

Who was your favorite teacher? Share your memories in the comments below.

This week had me thinking about the many teachers I had from primary school right on through university.

I have to say I was pretty fortunate; I had a lot of great teachers who pushed us and then pushed even more to be our best selves.

When I look back though, I'd say the one teacher who had the most impact was Mrs. Eileen Giola, my sixth grade teacher.

Mrs. Giola is the kind of teacher who naturally sparks your desire to learn. She is a teacher that you remember.

Actually, she is the one teacher my parents spoke of the most and held in the highest esteem.

As sixth graders — entering middle school and those awkward "tween" years — we were a rambunctious bunch.

But Mrs. Giola knew how to channel all that energy into productive learning.

She knew our strengths, our weaknesses and always pushed us to our highest selves.

Looking back, I know we weren't always an easy bunch but somehow, she did it without missing a beat.

With me, she encouraged my love of reading and writing and channeled my daydreaming into creative endeavors. You could never ask too many questions of her and there were never too many opportunities to learn in the classroom and outside it.

I remember one Saturday she took her daughter and me to the American Museum of Natural History in New York and then the Hayden Planetarium. She wanted to fuel our interest in history and science. Every time I go to the planetarium when I'm back home, I think of something she said: that our imaginations were as limitless as outer space.

Ultimately, she's the reason why I became a writer.

The most important lesson she taught me that sixth grade year was about taking personal responsibility.

At our school, all graded test papers had to be reviewed and signed by our parents to ensure they were on top of things that were going on inside the classroom.

I received a bad grade on one test and I knew it would not end well with my father so I signed his name.

I thought I did a pretty good job of it, too.

Not good enough, apparently.

Mrs. Giola immediately spotted it and pulled me out of the classroom for a one-on-one.

"This is not your father's signature," she said.

I was silent but my guilty stare was confirmation enough.

"I'm very disappointed in you, young man," she said with a disapproving look that made you feel like the worst person on Earth.

The lesson I needed to learn is that I had to take responsibility for my actions (not studying hard enough) that resulted in the bad score.

Signing my father's signature compounded the first problem even more.

"You're a young man now," she said. "You don't solve one mistake by creating another, you solve it by learning from it."

I had to take the test home — forged signature and all — home to my father and have him sign it to bring back the next day.

Of course, I ended up in a heap of trouble but Mrs. Giola's words have stayed with me all these years and I've tried to live by that.

She's since retired from teaching, but whenever I look back to the teachers who've guided and molded me along the way, she's the one to whom I'm most grateful.

Thanks, Mrs. Giola.

Jaclyn Hirsch May 10, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I hope you forwarded this to Mrs. Giola! My most memorable teacher was my ninth grade English teacher, who I'm blessed to call a dear friend today.

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