Teachers: Thank You For Shaping and Inspiring Us!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! While this is one week of the year we place extra emphasis on appreciating our wonderful teachers, you deserve to be celebrated every day, of every week, no matter the season. This year we are paying tribute to teachers that have influenced, supported and inspired some of the team members at Lea(R)n.

Many of us are former educators, have family and friends who are teachers or have a number of stories about teachers that have made an impact on us. We would like to #ThankATeacher that has impacted us in some way but we really wanted to say a big "thank you" to each and every teacher out there. We couldn't do what we do without you and hope that what we do makes your jobs easier.

Without further ado, here are the stories of some educators that have inspired us.

Karl Rectanus: CEO and Co-Founder

I grew up in a family of educators with a distinctive last name, and my mother just retired after 30 years…. That’s a lot of lives touched. So for years, around town, my brother and I have been known as “Karen’s boys”... As in, “you must be one of Karen’s boys, she taught me English” or “she taught my daughters” or “oh my goodness, how is your mother?!? DO YOU KNOW HOW AWESOME SHE IS?!?”. Indeed, I do, because I got to be her pupil my whole life. So, she’s first on my list -- I’m sure all the other teachers can forgive my bias.  

But that list of great teachers is long!!! Some have passed on - Mrs. Young, who was nearing retirement when she was my first grade teacher, so loving and committed to teaching us to be good people; and, Ms. Farthing, the sometimes cantankerous-because-I-love-you middle school math teacher who had her students’ backs every day.

Others treated us as sentient humans (not just children) well before we realized we were -- Dr. Eisenberg, Mrs. Krabill, Sharon Cooke and John Geraghty instilled ideals of mutual respect that, among other things, motivated students to work harder at learning for them.  

Some showed the craft of teaching in a way that, like a magician performing a trick happening to you, simultaneously excited and impressed with their skill. Coach Ron Miller, UNC fencing coach for over 50 years, has taught thousands how to be student athletes, individuals with integrity, and, in my case and many others, a PE student to become a national-finalist fencer. Peter Kauffman entertained and educated thousands of the systemic history from BC to the Middle Ages, in a way that made one wonder about the present day.

The meek may inherit the Earth, but teachers have a special place in heaven!

Amanda Cadran: Customer Success Manager

2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate?

I was recently looking for some financial paperwork at home when I stumbled across a time machine: A binder filled with writing projects dating back to middle school. As I pored over each essay, I realized that there was a teacher connected to each one who had made it possible for me to express myself clearly and confidently. Mrs. Imperato at Wall High School, whose AP English class was memorable and helped me more clearly define myself. As an undergrad at Lehigh University, I distinctly remember Professor Kraft, who challenged my notion of self while continually examining his own. It was inspiring, to say the least. Professors Davis and Wurth who took me into their graduate program and motivated through their dedication to improving public policies and our government. And Kevin Oliver, my dissertation chair at North Carolina State University, who gave me the freedom to pursue research that mattered to me, even if it meant going. He and my entire committee kept my head above water with the challenge to do my best work, and stay the course.

When I started teaching middle school language arts in 2005 at St. Mary Magdalene School, and when I began teaching summer writing courses with the Duke TIP program several years later, my primary goal was to give students the opportunity to understand themselves and how they learn best; to value their uniqueness. In other words, to be a champion for all they had to offer. All good things come from this place. To all of my mentors, the incredible teachers who taught me more than they will ever know, to my son’s preschool teachers at St. Francis Preschool who show unconditional love, patience, and joy, to the innovative educators I work with on a daily basis, and especially to my husband, who is currently wrapping up his 13th year as a middle school math teacher, thank you.

Katherine Webb: VP of Marketing

I went to school long before personalized learning was a thing. Public school, no less, in a time when a lot of schools were still struggling with architecting diversity through new bussing programs, and vying for a single Apple II that all students might use. With the uncertainty of the Cold War, our space program in trouble and the disappearance of young Adam Walsh, most of our teachers were focused on making sure everyone felt safe and sheltered (except for during dodge ball at recess) — and learned cursive and long division. Each day was much the same, and by the book. Except for the day each week that I went to GT (Gifted and Talented) with Mrs. Woosley. That day was completely different.

In her GT class, I learned to think. I learned to dissect. I learned to reason and have conviction, because I understood how and why I thought what I did. I didn’t memorize anything — I learned how to figure anything out. Every student in that program was the only student in the room to her. She worked with each of us, understanding how we learned, and instead of trying to streamline our styles and processes to make us all alike and teach us all one thing, she used techniques and exercises to grow our strengths and embrace our differences so we had the skills to understand anything that we wanted. We were all important, as individuals and part of that group, and were not safe from all of the ills of the world, but were being equipped with the skills to maneuver, excel, negotiate, rebel, embrace and fail whatever came our way. Those are life skills (long division and dodge ball turned out not to be), and I was fortunate enough to have someone with the passion to teach them, the patience to adapt them and the luxury to focus on teaching us how to think. #ThankATeacher former Greensboro, NC teacher, Mrs. Mary Woosley - personalized learning pioneer.

Emma Van Sant: Marketing Communications Specialist

Education has played a major role in of my life since I can remember. I grew up with a mother, father, aunt, grandmother and a number of close family friends in the education field. I need more than two hands to count the number of educators who have made a meaningful impact on my life. Whether is was my high school English teacher volunteering his free time to mentor our youth initiative club at 6am and encouraging us to do the impossible, or my university professor who helped carry students furniture on moving day making each and every one of us feel special, I can't think of a single person who can't name at least one teacher that made a lasting impact in their world however big or small.

While many of my teachers made lasting impacts on me, I've recently had the pleasure of hearing funny, sad, stressful, exuberant and humbling teaching stories from some of my best friends who took on the ever-challenging role of teacher in the past few years. First- and second-year teachers, especially those working in less financially-endowed schools, face more challenges than I had ever realized. A couple of months ago, I spent the day shadowing one of these friends in her classroom, a day that clearly highlighted my lack of stamina and further increased my already high level of respect for the hard work teachers do. This week and every week, I appreciate all teachers out there doing some of toughest work I can imagine but want to highlight some of my best friends, a couple of young teachers who are making an impact on a whole new generation of learners, North Carolina-based teacher Kerry Savage and Michigan teacher Shelby Denhof. #ThankATeacher

Kevin Uy: District Analyst

A week is not long enough to celebrate and appreciate all the ways that teachers have impacted my life, but here are a few highlights, with apologies to the dozens of teachers I haven’t mentioned.

  • Mrs. Candini, for fostering my love of strategy and simulation games
  • Mrs. Palmer, for fostering my love of grammar
  • Mr. Dickson, for fostering my love of history
  • Dr. Lester Su, for fostering my love of design and engineering
  • Shaneikiah Bickham, for getting me through year one of teaching
  • Aaron Zagory, Tom Wooten and Josh Stanton, for inspiration, sanity and family dinners
  • Jennifer Gioia, for making me feel at home in a new school
  • Debbie Babin, for being my hallway buddy
  • Pam Cassar, for being our fearless math department leader
  • David Bellard, Jane Esslinger, Iris Howorth, KC Mautner, Jennifer Dee, Tom Dugger, Allison Schroeder and many others, for including and joining me in extra-curricular activities.

And of course, to all my students—you’re why we do it.

Gretchen Parker: Content Marketing Specialist

Thinking back on my time in various school settings, I can credit the amazing accomplishments of my life with some pretty incredible teachers. They taught me to not only love learning, but see to see things in different light and challenge conventional ways of thinking. Each played an important role in shaping my future beyond their class, however one high school Math teacher forever changed me: Mrs. Heidi Keohane at Stafford High School

Looking at my schedule prior to the start of school my junior year, I realized I would have to sit through two blocks with one teacher. First tackling pre-Calculus and then my elective: AP Stats. I had loved my Algebra 2 teacher, and she had solidified my choice to take double math over a foreign language credit that year. Walking into precalculus, I was apprehensive about moving into the big world math leagues. Something about a class having the name Calculus tied to it seemed way beyond the comprehension of my 16-year-old mind; not to mention adding a second advanced placement math block to finish my day. Mrs. Keohane must have known the apprehension the majority of her students felt. She started the class with a smile and acknowledgment of our nerves - telling us we were in the right place and together we’d tackle the beast. That one small statement made me realize I was holding myself back and that as long as I had a solid support system behind me, nothing should seem scary or too far to reach. That year I tackled not only the two math classes I had with her, but ran as the NHS president the for the following year and signed up for BC calculus knowing she was the driving force behind both.

Mrs. Keohane, I don’t think I thanked you enough for the guidance and wisdom you imparted. You truly made my final two years of high school the best, setting me up for success beyond the chalkboard and numbers. Thank you for giving me the confidence I needed to tackle any beast in front of me, and for instilling a love of math in all the students you helped shape.

From the entire Lea(R)n team: thank you, teachers, for everything you do.