“Dear Mr. Bloom: Thank you for passing me.” University of Phoenix provost Alan Drimmer says that would be his (very succinct) message to his favorite teacher, even though the memories of his mentor could fill volumes.
In observance of Teacher Appreciation Week 2012, Drimmer joined other University of Phoenix representatives, all now educators themselves, to remember — and thank — the teachers who inspired them most.
Allan Bloom, my philosophy professor at the The University of Chicago, cared about wisdom and friendship more than anyone I ever met. He could be brutally critical. But he was also hilarious. If he were still alive today, he’d be sitting in Paris at a five-star restaurant with European intellectuals and American students discussing Plato, the Iranian nuclear threat and Kim Kardashian ... all in the same sentence! He was fascinating, infuriating, intimidating and exhausting. And I wanted to know everything he knew.
Mr. Fairley, fourth-period social studies, was my favorite teacher. In our predominately white high school, Mr. Fairley, was my first — and only — African-American teacher. This gentleman taught me how to be proud of my culture. To this day, I am still able to visit him and laugh about teenage episodes in class.
Mrs. Brand was perhaps the most influential of all my teachers. She taught me that I had control of my learning. She helped me to understand that learning is not just memorizing information; it is a process that includes practical inquiry and critical thinking. This engaged the creative side of my life early on. Through life’s experiences, I now realize how valuable sixth grade was for me.
I've had so many great teachers in my educational career. The one thing they all had in common was that they had high expectations of all their students — including me. I’d like to thank them for looking beyond the fact that I was an English Language Learner. They each expected just as much from me as they did from all their high-performing students. Because of that, I performed just as well, if not better. They are the teachers whom I think of as master teachers. They are exemplary models of what it means to be a professional educator.
Dr. Ward Peterson, at Gannon University in Pennsylvania, taught me to believe in myself. This was a gift of incomparable value. If I could, I would send him a thank-you note for encouraging me to follow my passion — and to explore what I could become. His dedication to his students and his strong belief that we can all be more than we imagine has inspired me throughout my life.
My favorite teacher, believe it or not, was my mother. She found her calling as a teacher. She retired at 80 years old, still teaching special-needs children. She never wanted me to be a cop, so I found a mix that pleased her: I became a police officer and an educator, enabling me to teach others what I had learned. My mother inspired me to do my best at whatever I wanted to do, and I found great rewards in both callings. Thanks, Mom!
When I think of a teacher who inspired me most, two actually come to mind. My high school history teacher, Mr. Jeff Stensrud, taught me the value of hard work and critical thinking. He had incredibly high expectations — and I loved the challenge! In college, my senior thesis advisor, Dr. Kellogg, was a Russian history scholar who would translate works in class as primary-source evidence. He was a perfectionist, and he helped me understand the importance of clear and concise writing. It’s no surprise that I went on to earn my secondary teaching credential in history/social studies!
My grandma was my favorite teacher. She educated me by acting as an example, not talking. She is no longer with us, but if I could send a thank-you note, I would say thank you. I think that tells all. I recommend that people say thank you to their teachers more often. Teachers are not in the field of education for the income, but for the outcome.