High school. A time of waking up with the sun five days a week. Trudging through seven-hour school days. The ceaseless sound of slamming lockers. Frantically weaving through crowded hallways to get to your next class. Meeting up with the same friends you see every day in a cafeteria that never seems to be empty. Worrying about how many "tardies" or "unexcused absences" will show up on your next report card.
High school is a unique place filled with sights and sounds you won't experience anywhere else. Unfortunately, high school was a difficult time for me; making friends wasn't the easiest, and combining that with stress from classes did not have the best outcome. Through it all, I think my teachers have had the most profound impact on me and have kept me sane at times, encouraging me to grow (not just in terms of grades, but also into a better person). I'm sure almost anyone can name a teacher whose class was fun and enjoyable, and whose students actually enjoyed showing up to class every day despite the assignments and work they would have to put in. For me, there were quite a few unforgettable teachers during my high school experience, and I owe them this article (and a lot more)!
Since I didn't explicitly ask for permission to use their names in this article, I'll use the common abbreviations of Mr./Ms./Mrs. [initial of last name] for the sake of anonymity.
I had Ms. F as my English teacher in both 11th and 12th grade. English was, by far, not my favorite subject. Rhetorically analyzing long-winded pieces like Henry Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and looking for metaphors in every other sentence were definitely not some of my top 10 favorite things to do. Despite this, Ms. F believed I had the potential to do well in her class.
Perhaps the thing that I liked most about her was her ability to make every student feel celebrated. I remember the day I had just come home after a tiring day of school and soon after received a very unexpected phone call. I recognized the caller ID as my school and my first thought was that I was in trouble. When I picked up, I was surprised to hear Ms. F's excited voice on the other end. She eagerly told me that I had gotten 9/9 on the first essay of the year (which I thought I had bombed). It may seem like one small victory, but the fact that she went out of her way to search the school directory for my house number and tell me the great news instead of waiting to tell me in class the next day was so nice!
Even though I've only gotten a phone call like this from her once, it was moments like these and her efforts to commend the work of students even outside the classroom that made her such an encouraging and unforgettable teacher. I also deeply admire her open-mindedness when it came to reading each of her students' works and encouraging them to pull through with it, even if she personally may not agree with what they write.
Mr. P was my Regents Physics teacher in my senior year of high school. He was, by far, an embodiment of what it means to go above and beyond. I actually stumbled into his class on the second day of senior year by mistake, and ended up liking it so much that I switched out of my AP Literature class to be in this one. Mr. P, an alumni from my soon-to-be college, had an interesting personality: he may strike you as sarcastically apathetic, maintaining a poker face for 95% of the time and only sometimes cracking a smile in good humor.
As a senior suffering from "senior-itis" (the sudden decline in motivation that high school seniors have toward their work after committing to a college) while taking 7 AP classes simultaneously, the stress of experiencing college rejections, and the anticipation of leaving high school, my mental health was all over the place. Despite his apparent serious nature, Mr. P hid an empathetic and compassionate character underneath. Several days after school, he would take the time to rationalize my concerns about college and the future with me, even if it meant staying after school 45 minutes longer than necessary. I could cry free of judgement in his classroom if I needed to, and sometimes, an outlet to express my honest emotions was exactly what I needed. He somehow knew exactly what to say and was always honest with me. When I told him I was considering majoring in physics in college, he told me outright that "physics is hard. I think you could do it, but the question is... do you actually want to do it?" By asking me to reconsider things like this, he helped me come to terms with lots of things in my life, both academic and personal. Lastly, despite being my physics teacher, Mr. P also took the time to give me personalized extra help in AP Chemistry after school, which I was currently struggling with. I will forever be grateful to him for taking time out of his day (which he could otherwise use to grade physics homeworks, tests, labs, etc. or go home to his family) to help me without receiving anything in return.
Mr. P definitely went beyond the classroom in showing me genuine compassion and thoughtfulness during a stressful time of mine, and he definitely raised my hopes for college. He is perhaps the most generous and thoughtful teacher I have ever had, and I owe a big part of the person I am today to his help.
Mr. S was my teacher for both AP Psychology and AP Chemistry in senior year, so he probably had more than enough of me after seeing me for 2-3 periods every day. Because he saw me so much, he also had to deal with my sleep-deprived, impulsive, stress-induced craziness the most.
I would like to thank Mr. S for not only putting up with that difficult side of me, but also understanding the things I was going through at the time. He understood when I got a 70 on the easiest chemistry quiz of the year, when I hadn't had time to practice a presentation for psychology so he let me improvise it on the spot (and even let me postpone my presentation to the next day when I gave up trying to improvise), and let me leave in the middle of chemistry nearly every day without asking to get food from the cafeteria because I didn't have time to eat lunch before. He was also always 100% supportive of me when I told him about my college plans, my choice of majors, and career aspirations, claiming that I would be "the best doctor ever!" I still have a long way to go before that happens, but I really appreciate Mr. S's belief in me and his enthusiasm in supporting my goals!
Ms. B was my science research teacher every year in high school. I saw her every other day in 9th grade, and even less frequently in later years. Despite this, Ms. B had one of the most resounding effects on me in the field of science. Ms. B was my go-to for advice and recommendation letters when applying to summer science research programs and presenting at research fairs. But even more than that, she was definitely like my motherly figure at school. At science fairs when I was surrounded by intimidatingly smart posters and students, teachers, and judges from other schools, I would always seek out Ms. B when possible, sort of like getting lost in a mall as a little kid and looking for your mom among the clothing racks.
Ms. B shaped my interests surrounding genetic engineering for a large part of my high school career. She inspired me to do three consecutive projects on some form of genetic engineering and even talk about them in my other classes, like in English and Health class. Aside from genetic engineering, Ms. B definitely solidified my interest in science and inspired me to be ambitious in my science-oriented goals.
These teachers definitely had the greatest impact on me during high school. Though high school was not my favorite time, they showed me unwavering support and held a steadfast belief in my potential. They celebrated my wins, consoled me during my lows, and understood that I needed some space to collect myself sometimes.
It's harder to build connections like these with college professors, especially if you go to a big university. Looking back at these high school teachers, I'm glad I had the honor of meeting them and sharing some very profound experiences with them. Even today, teachers everywhere continue to persevere through the pandemic to educate and instill lifelong lessons and memories (such as the ones I have) in students. If you're a teacher reading this right now, thank you for all the work and time you put into helping the younger generations, and a big thank you to all the teachers that have helped me through high school as well!