Who were your favorite teachers?

If I asked you to name your favorite teachers from kindergarten through graduate school, it would be easy to answer, wouldn’t it? It would also be an enjoyable question to answer because it would bring back so many fond memories of wonderful people who’ve touched both your personal life and your professional life. You would be thinking about people who not only taught you things of value, but inspired you as well. Quite possibly they inspired you to become a teacher.

My classmates and I were asked this question on my first day in the teaching credential program at the University of San Francisco many years ago. It was a great way to begin my pursuit of a career in teaching — thinking about people in the profession who had the most positive influence on me. We were asked to write down our answers. I thought of Sister Mary Margaret and Sister Mary Anne, who taught me in elementary school. I thought of Mrs. Padgett and Mrs. Kofford, English teachers, and Mr. Kutras, a history teacher, in high school. Then I thought of Dr. Lincoln and Dr. Campbell, history professors, and Dr. Kirk, an English professor, who taught me in college. Then came this question: “What do they all have in common?” My hand went up first, and Dr. McSweeney (another great teacher) called on me. I said, “They all loved what they were doing. They had great enthusiasm for teaching.” All of my fellow graduate students nodded their heads in agreement. One of them, to punctuate the point, said “Exactly!”

That was apparently the answer he expected. He said, “I ask that question every year, and I always get the same answer.” He went on to explain that he opens with that question because it’s guaranteed to get things off to a good start, and it gets future teachers to think about what separates the great teachers from the not-so-great.  … Read More