During our Teacher Appreciation Week Sweepstakes, we asked educators to share their most memorable moments from the field. We received nearly 1,000 responses from across the country, ranging from stories of jubilant children just learning to form words in Fundations® to the triumphant breakthroughs of struggling readers in the Just Words® and Wilson Reading System® programs.
“It’s the tiny successes that have the biggest impact,” shared Julie H. “I remember the day one of my students was able to read by himself. I had been working with him for four years … I cried, along with every other teacher we went to see. I took him to all his past teachers, current teacher, assistants, staff members and anyone else who ever worked with him. The smile and pride on his face will never leave me.”
“At 70 years of age, the world was opening up to him in a way it hadn’t ever before,” Robin R. wrote about the determined adult learner she’ll never forget.
“He said he wanted me to have (his graduation tassel) because I was his inspiration for going to college,” Lori O., reminisced about a graduating senior she had taught in first grade.
“The day I told (my students) I had cancer was the most memorable day of my life,” shared Paige B., a first-year teacher at the time. “They all took it upon themselves to write me inspirational cards that I kept with me (during) every chemo treatment. I will never forget that year.”
Read on to enjoy more inspiring, poignant, and humorous submissions guaranteed to make you smile, tug at your heartstrings, and celebrate the noble profession of teaching.
Some submissions have been edited for length.
Blasts from the Past
Two years ago, a former student tracked down my cell phone number and gave me a call. As we chatted, he informed me that he was in his second year of college studying acting because of me and how much of an impact I had on his life. He invited me to dinner, and I accepted. When I arrived at the restaurant, he was already seated with seven of my former students. We spent three hours catching up on their lives, aspirations, and careers. Each student spoke to me about how my presence influenced their lives and taught them to never settle for anything less than what they are worth. This was one of the proudest moments of my life. – Christopher P.
The most memorable moment in my teaching (career) was when a former rowdy student appeared at my door, standing there in his dress blues having had recently completed boot camp. The reason for his coming back was just to tell me the difference I had made in his life, and he wanted to thank me in person. That was seven years ago, and I still remember the feeling of that moment. Whenever I get down and think that I am not making a difference, I remember this student, pick myself up, and enter the classroom with a new sense of purpose. – Debbie B.
My most memorable moment was when I was finishing up my Wilson practicum. I had taken my eighth-grade student from not being able to read to not only reading, but also comprehending what she had read. The emotions between both of us were overwhelming and so real. When she graduated that year, she walked up to me with tears in her eyes and simply said, “Thank you.” She didn’t have to say for what, because I was on the journey with her. I will never forget that day, and I think of it often as I continue to be a Wilson reading instructor. – Joan M.
My most joyful memory, after working with one of my third-graders for almost a year on remedial reading, came about seven months into WRS. My student, who seven months before didn’t know the letters of the alphabet, read his first sentence from Student Reader One: “The rat is mad.” He leaped from his seat, threw his hands high in the air, and yelled, “I’m a reader!” In 12 years of teaching, I never saw a child experience such a conversion – he BECAME a reader – and he knew it! He read that one sentence to every child and adult who would listen that day. If I EVER question my career choice, I think back to that moment, my heart is immediately reignited … and I press forward. – Candace B.
Literacy & Laughs
I was working with a little first-grade boy, trying to help him see that putting letters together makes different words. We were working with ‘an’ because he had that welded sound in his name, and we explored that ‘f’ + ‘an’ = fan, etc. We played with about 10 words this way and he exclaimed, “WAIT! So I just have to figure out what sounds these make and then I can read? I CAN READ?!?!?!” And, he did go on to “figure out” the sounds and became quite a good reader. – Elizabeth L.
It has always been a goal of mine to not only teach my students to read, but to have them learn to love to read as much as I do. A mother of one of my students, a boy who formerly had been a struggling reader, came running up to me one day. She said, “Mrs. Z., you have ruined my son!” “Oh no,” I said. “What’s seems to be the problem?” “He won’t go anywhere without a book!” she replied. “Mission accomplished,” I thought to myself, as we both laughed at her new and decidedly more pleasant current predicament. – Amy Z.
The other day after recess a mouse came in the school. The students were screaming … One of the kindergarten teachers completely freaked out … Our head custodian, Mr. W., came and got the mouse. He felt bad for the mouse and decided to set him loose in the field behind the school. One of the students cried, “But how will he learn how to read?” – Cindy B.
I teach at a high-poverty Title I school. My co-teacher and I created a Thanksgiving feast for our class … We arranged the desks into family-style dining tables with real cloth tablecloths, cloth napkins, real silverware and centerpieces … The look on (the students’) faces was amazing, and I will not ever forget that image. After our feast, one of our students asked if they could make a toast. We said of course, and it set off a chain reaction (in) the class. One of our “tough” kids said the most memorable and inspiring eight words I’ve ever heard in my teaching career: “Thank you for making me feel like somebody.” – Melissa M.
I had a Wilson student named James. He was a great kid who had never made much progress until he started Wilson in high school. James had been bullied in the past and used my room as his sanctuary (his name for it). He did graduate and went on to college. During his senior year, my mom ended up in hospice care with a brain tumor. Her nurse’s aide was James’s mom! She said to me, “You took care of my son, and now I get to take loving care of your mom.” And she did for three months until my mom passed. – Jill P.
This past summer, I began tutoring one of my students, who has mild autism and severe dyslexia, using the Wilson Reading System. After a short, six-month period, this student began reading multisyllabic words in grade-level context. This student and I knew how much growth he had made, but the most memorable moment was with his father. After one of our tutoring sessions, his father came to me (in) tears. For the first time in his life, he did not have to help his son read aloud cards while opening gifts. He said that the whole family was shocked and expressed how proud they were of him. We both cried tears of joy and this student’s confidence continues to soar with each passing session. – Melissa S.