He Kindled My Passion for Science
The educator who really made a difference to me
was my 8th grade science teacher, Mr. Wayne
South. He was one of the most
inspiring, passionate, supportive
educators that I ever experienced.
He opened my eyes to what
authentic learning is all about. I
still remember the project where,
instead of just learning about
Mars, we transformed the entire
classroom into the surface of Mars. It was Mr. South
who helped me develop my passion for science, and
I eventually pursued a teaching degree in science
and wrote a book on teaching science. The way he
taught back then is the way I try to push my teachers
to teach today.
—Eric Sheninger, principal,
New Milford High School,
Bergen County, New Jersey
She Gave Me a Model
Dear Mrs. Gates,
It is your 2nd grade classroom that I pictured when I
set up my first classroom—everything arranged just
right for my 1st and 2nd graders. It is your hugs that
I feel whenever a little one hugs me now. I don’t shy
from hugging them back because I remember how
much I needed the hugs. Every crazy idea I’ve tried
in my 30-something years in education stems from
the seeds you planted back in 2nd grade. I figure
that if Mrs. Gates can give kids in the city of Chicago
a safari experience, then anything is possible. Yes,
I remember clearly walking down Logan Boulevard
dressed in “safari” clothes picking fruit that you had
painstakingly hung on the low branches of trees.
Because of you, I believe in building relationships
and giving children as many experiences as possible.
You opened up the world to me, and for that I will
ever be grateful.
—Ana Lozano Wilson, principal,
Valley View School District 365U,
She Turned the Learning Over to Students
Miss Tiff, my junior year English teacher, shifted
She Helped Me Adjust to a New Country
my understanding of what it means to learn. Until
taking her class, I had only attended traditional
teacher-centered, lecture-style classes in middle
and high school. In Miss Tiff’s class, we sat in a U
shape and held discussions. The atmosphere of the
classroom was academic, collaborative, and active.
We were encouraged to say things like, “I concur
with . . .” and “I disagree because . . . .” I now rec-
ognize the teaching model as Socratic circles, but at
the time it was just Miss Tiff being a good enough
teacher to let go of control and turn the learning
over to her students. She inspired me to become the
teacher I am today. Like her, I aim to listen instead
of talk, encourage instead of inform, and create
engaged learners instead of passive listeners.
instructional coach and English language arts teacher,
Harmony Public Schools, El Paso, Texas
I came to the United States from Mexico when I was
a 1st grader. My first teacher was Miss Hornung.
I have vivid memories of my first days of school. I
loved sitting at her feet during story time to listen to
her rhythmic voice. She gave me a bilingual partner
and made it OK to speak Spanish. My extended
family was always welcome in her classroom, and
she didn’t even mind if I kissed her on the cheek
when I left, just like I was used to doing in Mexico.
Miss Hornung and I are colleagues now, and she
continues to help me become an effective instructional coach.
—María Ortiz-Smith, instructional coach,
U.S.D. 443, Dodge City, Kansas
She Introduced Us to the Magic of Literature
In 4th grade, I blossomed in the class of a first-year
teacher who enjoyed doing plays in reading and
investigating rocks in science. Miss Sandra Way
encouraged us to think, take risks, make mistakes,
and learn from them. About once a week, she let me
stay after school to help her. She believed in me and
““My 6th grade teacher made every student feel ike the most important person in the room.