StoryCorps 2011 National Day of ListeningIf you read this blog or listen to our public radio program, you more than likely know that we’re super-big fans of Dave Isay and his StoryCorps project. And, for the fourth year now on the day after Thanksgiving, they celebrate by sponsoring a National Day of Listening. This year’s theme: show your gratitude and thank a teacher.

Honor your favorite teacher and share a story about her or him. You can write an essay or, even better, take your iPhone or Android set and record something for yourself and for us. We’re teaming up with NPR and StoryCorps and posting some of our favorite stories — audio, video, text, or tweet — right here on this blog. Or send a “thank you” Tweet to us at @Beingtweets (#thankateacher). Don’t worry about the technical details or that you say (or write) it perfectly, sometimes it’s most important that you just show up and say “Thank you!”

We can’t wait to hear your stories!

Share Your Reflection

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Thank you, Ms. Cottier, Leyton Elementary 4th Grade Teacher, Gurley, NE (attended 1993-1994). Your heart for children wouldn't allow for mistreatment of others and gave me a role model for care and compassion just outside of that which a mother teaches her child. You're a wonderful educator who gave me an excellent standard I hope to achieve in this profession you so gracefully expressed. Thank you for your footprint in my life and the lives of others. Justin

Thank you, Ms. Cottier, Leyton Elementary 4th Grade Teacher, Gurley, NE (attended 1993-1994). Your heart for children wouldn't allow for mistreatment of others and gave me a role model for care and compassion just outside of that which a mother teaches her child. You're a wonderful educator who gave me an excellent standard I hope to achieve in this profession you so gracefully expressed. Thank you for your footprint in my life and the lives of others. Justin

My favorite teacher was Coretta Scott King! For two years she co-taught a graduate level class at the Candler School of Theology of Emory University in Atlanta on the "Theology of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."  She was able to entice AMAZING guest speakers to come to our class. I remember Ralph Abernathy, Harold DeWolf (Dr.King's dissertation professor from Boston University), and Andrew Young.  One of the highlights of the class for me was singing "We Shall Overcome" with Mrs. King during our final class session.  She had a masters degree in vocal music from the Boston Consevatory of Music and had a beautiful soprano voice.  At the time she was my teacher, she was working on getting a National Holiday established for Dr. King's birthday.  Ever since, I have always sought to find some way to honor Dr.King's legacy---and Mrs. King's too.  

Thank you for sharing this memory, and what a great experience! We've gladly retweeted your lovely note.

Recently, I happened across a picture of my second grade class at South Valley Elementary School in Moorestown, New Jersey, taken in the spring of 1967, when I was eight years old and possessed a devilish innocence that bespoke an eternal, if reticent optimism.  Though the faces are familiar, I remember few names and can only wonder where my classmates are today, where the paths of life have taken them, how history and experience have affected them.  Not surprisingly, the person I remember most vividly is my teacher, Mrs. Ellis.  A kind, warm, African American woman of grace and stature, she taught us during the two formidable years of first and second grade.  It was Mrs. Ellis who taught us to read, to multiply and divide, to follow directions, and to think for ourselves.  She was one of the best teachers I have ever had, a dedicated public servant who represents everything that is good and decent about America and the value of education.
Mrs. Ellis understood instinctively the words of President John F. Kennedy, that education was “the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength of the nation."  Mrs. Ellis did not merely teach us to read and write, add and subtract – though these she did quite well – she developed our young minds and helped us mature and to feel valued as human beings.  She inspired us to want to learn, to want to achieve, work hard, and improve our lives.
I especially appreciate a good teacher, because in the United States, at least, the teaching profession has always been undervalued.  “Modern cynics and skeptics,” said President Kennedy, “see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing.”  A half-century later, little has changed.  When a hedge fund manager makes more money in a week than a schoolteacher makes in a lifetime, there is something wrong with the world.  Someday, when we are past our prime and looking back on life, when our children are older and beyond the need of a parent’s advice, it will not matter what kind of house we live in, or car we drive, or how many stock dividends we claim on our tax returns each year.  What will matter is how we influenced the lives of others and whether we left the world a better place than when we entered.  Mrs. Ellis has long since passed that test. 
"It is not what is poured into a student that counts,” said Linda Conway, “but what is planted."  Mrs. Ellis was the gardener of my early education, planting the seeds that helped make me what I am today. Her influence over my young and developing mind was real and magical.  “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist,” said John Steinbeck, “and that there are as few as there are any other great artists.”  Mrs. Ellis was a true artist indeed.
I have been blessed with many outstanding teachers and professors in my lifetime, but Mrs. Ellis will always be special, for it was under her guidance I learned to read, to write, and to embark on a journey of the human mind and spirit.  Today, when I read a good book or write something of substance, I think of Mrs. Ellis. Looking now at the photograph, I am in awe of this group of naive, innocent, wide eyed children, full of life and dreams and limitless possibility.  An all-white class taught by a positive, uplifting black woman, we were oblivious to the civil rights movement and not cognizant of the many inequities and injustices of life.  And yet, fully enraptured by this vibrant, strong, kind woman who led, taught, molded, and cared for us as if we were her own children, we knew we were in good hands, secure in the knowledge that if we tried and failed, if we fell down along the way, Mrs. Ellis would be there to help us to our feet and to try again. 
“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps,” Thurgood Marshall once said. “We got here because somebody (a parent, a teacher . . .  or a few nuns) bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” When we think back on the teachers and mentors of our lives, we especially appreciate the effective ones, those whose influence left a permanent mark.  But it is the few who touched our humanity that we remember with deepest gratitude.  Here’s to you, Mrs. Ellis, and to all the great teachers past and present.

Thank you, Miss Nettie Shaw, my first grade teacher at Brantwood Elementary in Dayton , Ohio in 1961. You were a compassionate and learned teacher to 30 little kids from a semi-rural and lower socio-economic background. You taught by demonstration, bringing in piglets from your farm, having us cut out felt letters to touch- all ahead of your time. You were in your 60s when you taught me and you followed me through my public school career, paying for a fifth grade field trip when my father was unemployed by illness and strikes, sending me cards as I passed each milestone of my schooling. You never allowed bullying and you rewarded kindness. I can still see you in your floral shirtwaists and pearls, open arms and sweet smile.

Three thank you's...

Thank you Dr. Miles from Penn State Ogontz/Abington campus.  He taught me/us to drive to class using a different route and to pay attention to my surroundings.  This has been a life lesson.

Thank you Tony Curtis and Karen Walsh, Journalism professors from Penn State University Park.  One taught me how to write and the other how to use language appropriately.  Career lessons.  All three made a lasting impression that I carry with me to this very day.  Each were wonderful professors/teachers...

This memory is of Ms. Alsup at Hallsville, Ilinois grade school in 1953. One of my fellow third grade boys suffered from some form of retardation. In my infinite wisdom, I told Ms. Alsup one day that she should provide easier questions for this boy. And I further told her than those of us who had no trouble could take harder questions. She told me in no uncertain terms that I should worry about Terry, and that she could take care of everyone else. This was a lesson to me in not condescending to anyone and I never forgot it. What a great teacher this woman was!