The Educators Who Changed Us

Our team members are grateful for the teachers and professors who influenced us as learners and—now— as the professionals we are today.

In an exercise at one of our recent monthly staff meetings, I asked everyone to answer these questions about someone they considered their favorite educator:

  • What did they teach you (grade, subject, etc.)?
  • Where was this (institution, place)?
  • How did they inspire or motivate you?

The resulting anecdotes—shared below—are as varied as the voices and backgrounds of our team, and as deep and broad as the range of educators who helped to shape us, as well as those who work tirelessly today, helping to teach students how to learn. Here we’d like to honor how they influenced us and made a difference in our lives.

“A teacher affects eternity. [They] can never tell where their influence stops.”
Henry B. Adams

Our Favorite Educators

Adam: Mrs. Hobson was my 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at Norwich Elementary in Hilliard, Ohio. Mrs. Hobson encouraged me to work at my own pace and explore interests beyond our curriculum. She continued to be an advocate for me and challenged me throughout the rest of my K-12 experience.

Aimen: Mr. Jackson taught me in high school and completely changed my perspective on studying mathematics.

Allison: Mr. Orr taught 9th grade physics, 10th grade chemistry, and 12th grade marine ecology at Oregon Episcopal School. I hated science classes and didn’t understand physics, but he worked one-on-one with me to make sure I understood it all. I was upset when I got him for chemistry, but then I ended up loving it and doing well.

Cecilia: My 2nd grade teacher gave me the confidence to help me make sense of math. Because of her, I never was one of those kids that said "I don’t get math!"

Dale: Ms. Giobbe was my 7th grade English/Social Studies Teacher at Bowditch Middle School in California. Her curriculum was rich and personalized, but possibly more importantly, she introduced me to Monty Python and took me and a friend to our first Star Trek convention.

Emily: Mrs. Martin taught me in 9th-12th grades at Bloomfield High School in Connecticut. The classes I took with her included sculpture, foundations of art, and African American art history. I took ALL of the art classes I was allowed with Mrs. Martin because of her gentle guidance toward improvement. I wanted to be her; to perceive and critique the world the way she did. She taught me to see through a lens outside of my single perspective and provided me with chances to experience how to evaluate and critique with more understanding of cause and circumstance before passing judgment.

Frank: Mr. Owens taught me art. One of the main things I learned from him was that “If you want to be an artist, the first step is to get a real job.”

Greg: Mrs. Davis taught me during 3rd and 4th grade at Central Elementary School in Ithaca, New York. She offered a year-long study of the Civil Rights era which opened my eyes to a fascinating topic and fascinating people.

Jake: Dr. Mary Jo Sibbald taught chorus at Taylor Road Middle School, and gave me a space to be myself. She inspired confidence and purpose through her commitment to the class.

Jeff: My high school librarian was tasked—in North Carolina in the 1980s, during the heyday of Jesse Helms—to remove all of the “controversial/obscene” books from the library. She followed this directive and passed all the books along to me. She also sponsored the debate team I started.

John C: My professor at Valparaiso University, Dr. David Rowland, made statistics engaging and understandable. He designed incredible lab projects that drove deep learning of the scientific method.

John M: Mr. Esler taught economics during my senior year of high school at Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin. He made the subject relatable with lots of group work, including a family budgeting project. We won a state-wide competition in a stock market portfolio game by not diversifying at all and hitting big on a biotech stock! He also told us often to invest and to buy a home property.

Jon F: Mrs. Goodman taught me 8th grade language arts at Sandburg Jr. High in Elmhurst, Illinois. We had to keep a journal for class that she reviewed, and she was someone I trusted enough to share my angsty adolescent feelings with; she gave some really helpful adult advice and guidance.

Jonathan: My college professor at the University of Oregon, Dr. William Cadbury, taught a course in film criticism that improved my critical thinking and writing skills across all the subjects I studied subsequently and throughout my life.

Kelly: Mr. Bastian taught me anatomy and physiology during my senior year of high school. He shared a love of what he was teaching and gave us freedom to explore and ask questions. I have happy memories of early mornings before school, dissecting Abercrombie with my lab partner, while listening to music and drinking semi-frozen Coca-Cola left from some fundraiser.

Lisa: Mr. Bier taught english during 11th and 12th grade at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Washington. He was the first teacher who gave me a poor grade and said that he thought I could do better. I hated him for it at the time. I worked harder for him than any other teacher, and I learned the most from him than from any teacher in any other class I took. I credit him for teaching me how to write.

Marc: Thomas Cauffield taught physics and was my artistic advisor for my capstone senior project at the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton, Oregon. He got me interested in physics and science and helped me meld the capstone artistic requirements with my passion.

Simone: Ms. Renee taught me chemistry and advanced chemistry in 11th and 12th grades. She gave us a lot of freedom and made labs applicable to the real world. We did things such as gathering materials to use as yarn dye, making ice cream, and getting to light stuff on fire.

Steve: Mark Purdy taught me A.P chemistry at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho. He taught me academic rigor, not only because he was a “tough grader” but also in pushing the way we thought about, discussed, and presented our work. Although I had no desire to pursue chemistry in college or as a career, the lessons I learned in that class about teamwork, collaboration, and a commitment to doing your best have stuck with me to this day.

Tavia: Julie Bridges taught me 9th grade Honors English at Northeastern High School in North Carolina. She also served as my mentor in 12th grade. She taught me that I didn’t have to make myself small for anyone. She reminded me to step into my abilities and power and own them! She also offered me amazing things to read and inspired me more than anyone else to become an educator. On the last day of class in my 9th grade year, we all stood on our desks, and when she walked in, we shouted, “O Captain, My Captain!”

Thor: Tom Layton was the computer teacher at South Eugene High School who introduced me to the world of instructional technology, constructivism, and experiential learning. I especially remember this lesson that came through all his teaching: “It’s not just having the idea that matters, it’s having the dedication to see it through to fruition.”

Tim: My 12th grade physics teacher, Mr. Magoo, at Bay High School in Ohio, demonstrated physics concepts that inspired our whole class; including a memorable demo about inertia involving plates on his pate and hammers.

Zenzi: Ms. Brindle was my 9th grade teacher of English literature at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. She was able to make reading “the classics” fun and relatable to modern teens.