An Open Letter to Teachers: You Shape Lives Today and Always

Dear Teachers,

The last few years have been trying, exhausting, frustrating, and oh so challenging. There were no courses in college that even came close to preparing you for teaching through a worldwide pandemic. I’ve spent many hours listening to the struggles and giving pep talks to teachers hanging on by a thread. I’m truly in awe of all you’ve accomplished!

You’ve flexed, learned new technology, and accomplished extraordinary things to meet the needs of your students. Words really can’t express how grateful I am, we all are, for you and all you’ve done to shape the lives of children during unprecedented times!

Not every subject comes easy for us, so those teachers who see our struggles and find ways to help us move beyond our “I can’t do this, I’m dumb” to “oh, that’s how you do it, I understand now”, are priceless! Math was one of those subjects for me and many of my friends. In fact, it was a four-letter swear word!

I must confess that many teachers tried, but few could help me get over my “Mathphobia” until the final math class I had to take to become a teacher. Crazy, I know. I still wouldn’t attempt to teach math beyond second grade, but I’m not paralyzed by M-A-T-H anymore. One of my friends conquered math in high school thanks to a teacher who took his own time twice a week before school to tutor her.

Tough love teachers, you know who you are. The ones who see the potential and push us so hard we think they surely must not like us, and, if we’re honest, we had a love/hate relationship with them too. We’ve all had them. For me, it was a couple of high school English teachers. I swear they must have gone through a dozen red pens because they made so many marks on each of my papers that it was hard to see what I wrote. Oh, the rewrites! The constructive criticism and pointers sometimes felt more like daggers through the heart. All this made me push myself even harder because I wanted to prove that I was a good writer. Little did I know, they knew it all along. The hard work and tough love paid off. I became co-editor of my high school newspaper and had a poem published in a national high school anthology thanks to these teachers who saw something in me and pushed me to be better. I’m still writing and still love it after all these years! A simple thank you truly isn’t enough for these two teachers and for all the teachers who see something in a student and push them to be the best they can be.

Classrooms are filled with diverse learners. They come from different cultures and family structures, each with their own story. Getting to know them can be fun, challenging, and sometimes heartbreaking. My early years in elementary school were rough as I faced the illness and loss of my mother, but my teachers stood in the gap and were patient and nurturing, always careful to watch for my “off” days and encourage me. These teachers laid a foundation that went beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. They helped heal my broken heart.

In classrooms across the country, some teachers are working to mend broken hearts, calm angry students, and create a stable and safe haven for all who enter your classroom. Your lessons go beyond the curriculum to teach compassion, respect, and important life skills. No matter what the struggle is, academic or personal, your one focus is on helping each child overcome and succeed. Thank you for trying to find the reason a student avoids reading or is slower to respond orally to questions instead of dismissing them as lazy or inattentive. Thank you for always going above and beyond. You are a real-life superhero!

We see you and everything you do! Some say “it’s your job” to do everything you do, but most of us know better because you give countless hours of your own time, money, and energy and go above and beyond for your students. You go to endless meetings, receive and answer thousands of emails and even get after-hours texts and calls from parents. A week seems inadequate. Indeed, we don’t say it enough, but we are grateful for you every single day!

When you live as long as I have, ya know 29 and holding, you have a little time to reflect on the people who made a difference in your life and the lives of those around you. Besides family, those who’ve left the greatest mark on our lives have been teachers.

Teachers, in case you need to hear this today, you truly shape lives inside and outside of the classroom and for the rest of our lives.

THANK YOU!


Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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