Our favorite teachers remembered for Teacher Appreciation Week

“Warm wet winters with westerly winds.” That, says Paul Horwitz, “is the only thing I remember from Mr. Taylor’s sixth grade class. He was my favorite teacher, though.” (Paul was attending the Overseas School of Rome at the time, and the alliteration describes the Mediterranean climate.)

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we shared stories of our favorite teachers.

Noah Paessel fondly remembers a yoga teacher who told him, “Don’t postpone joy!” Then there was his philosophy of art teacher who started every class by announcing, “It’s time to do the dishes!” This was his expression for the “tiresome work of reviewing the assigned reading.” They’d get that out the way before getting to the fun part of discussing the big ideas. Noah laughs and says he now “uses both of these sayings to justify whatever I end up working on.”

Meanwhile, Chad Dorsey spent some time reminiscing about Mr. Thompson, his sixth grade teacher. “Though I didn’t have the name for it then, he was about epistemic agency from start to finish. I still remember practicing deep debates with my friends about book reports because if something was marked wrong on a book report, he encouraged you to argue the point with him to regain credit if you made it convincingly!”

From the finer points of the written book report, there was also art. Sherry Hsi’s second grade teacher, Miss Strand, “was always encouraging, developed my love of art, and promoted our art work in the community.” One of Sherry’s pieces was displayed in the California State Capitol, though she jokes, “I am 100% sure my mom put the art into the trash can as soon as it got home.”

Sarah Pryputniewicz’s art also made it to her state capitol, though the memory she shared with us is a little leather purse made for her by her first grade teacher, Mrs. Bartrug.


Leather purse made by Sarah Pryputniewicz’s first grade teacher.

Several science teachers made the list, too. Natalya St. Clair describes her high school physics and astronomy teacher: amazing, sarcastic, funny, and engaging. Taking his high school astronomy class in Tucson, Arizona, meant that she had “star parties” every other Friday night so they could look at the desert night sky through his telescope. Occasionally, they’d also have the chance to see Jupiter’s Great Red Spot or meteor showers from the University of Arizona’s telescope.

Chris Hart shares the story of her middle school physics teacher, Mr. Kirkland, the one male teacher in the all-girls Catholic school in the small English town where she grew up. Eccentric with a brutally sharp sense of humor and so much snark and wit, he would often say, “Physics is maths with toys!” and proceed to demonstrate that at every opportunity. Though his lessons rambled and Chris spent hours attempting to write down everything from the copious projector notes, he brought real-world lessons to the class. Chris learned how to change tires on her car years before she learned to drive.

Trudi Lord’s physics teacher was apparently cut from the same cloth. She describes constant pig/pork/swine jokes in his class. Best of all were the daily mini-quizzes that featured members of the class: “If Kristin and Marcus are in the back seat of a limo on the way back from the prom, is gravity enough to pull them together? Assume zero friction.”

Lynn Stephen’s undergraduate honors calculus professor also used enticing word problems to interest his class, like the max/min problem about running along a beach to save a beautiful person who was drowning. “You had to decide at what point to stop running parallel to the water and start swimming. Turned out the actual question was not about that at all, but instead said you were so brilliant you somehow knew how many seconds until drowning. The actual test question was: ‘So do you run toward said beautiful person to save them, or run in the other direction toward the coroner?’”

Then there was Matt Lewandowski’s Spanish teacher, Mrs. Pawlak, whom he saw every day for all four years of high school, thanks to “the oddities of Midwest public education.” Although she was a tough, no-nonsense teacher with a reputation for high expectations and difficult tests, she would end Friday classes by playing records that she listened to as a teenager growing up in Panama. Matt asked if the album had the lyrics to one song in particular that he found quite beautiful, Shalom by Jose Luis Rodriguez. Over the weekend, Mrs. Pawlak typed the lyrics that she had transcribed (complete with accent marks that she had filled in with pen) just for him. Twenty-five years later, Matt still has that lyric sheet.

Lyrics to Shalom by Jose Luis Rodriguez

Lyrics to Shalom by Jose Luis Rodriguez, hand typed by Matt Lewandowski’s Spanish teacher.

Finally, Seth Van Doren explains, “Despite never actually being one of their students, my favorite teachers are my two aunts! From a young age they taught me how important education is, and listening to their teaching anecdotes is what originally got me interested in going into education myself.”

Every day at the Concord Consortium we work to ignite large-scale improvements in teaching and learning through technology. We celebrate all teachers this week. We remember ours fondly, and know that you’re making memories with your own students even now, especially now at this unprecedented time in the history of education across the country and the world. Thank you!

Read more about what we’re doing in our staff pages.