I learned a lot in high school, and I’ve got my diploma to prove it. But the lessons that will stick with me the longest aren’t things I read out of a textbook or heard in lecture. The lessons that I’ll remember for the rest of my life came from my teachers’ hearts.
When they connected with me on a personal level and opened themselves up, the topics we discussed offered the lessons I’ll take with me the longest. I can think of three teachers in particular who impacted my high school career by telling me stories about things that happened to them, or to former students they taught in the past. These teachers offered advice about college, jobs, even relationships. These things don’t get taught in the curriculum, but by far they offer the most important lessons in life. Whether it was during a class discussion or a one-on-one conversation, the educators who didn’t strictly stick to the curriculum made the biggest impact in my life.
My advanced biology teacher, Regan McPhetres, gave me a lot of college advice. His stories made me worry a little less about leaving the familiarity of home and moving to a new place with all new people. He also gave me a lot of study tips, and helpful hints on how to speak and put essays together in a time efficient way. I wouldn’t have learned any of that if he had stuck to the curriculum and only taught the information that was in the textbook.
My French teacher told my class lots of life stories and inspired us all to travel and take advantage of all the opportunities that were handed to us. Teresa Brzustowicz was also a big help in the college search process and filling out applications to different schools. We had a lot of current event discussions in her class as well, another topic that wouldn’t normally have been discussed because it’s not in the curriculum.
My AP History teacher was another educator I connected with on a personal level. Kathy Hanson became a grandmother figure to me by the end of my high school career, and I remain in touch with her. She is someone I can talk to about anything, and that’s a very important connection for a student to have in school.
Even in college, with big classes and lots of students, one of my teachers knows all of our names and before class, if we get there early, she’ll tell us stories about her dogs and her travels to places like the Fiji Islands. Because she made the effort to know our names and connect with us over topics like our pets, it feels like she’s really behind us with our education.
Connecting with students is almost as important, if not more than, the education they receive. Anyone could teach a subject from a textbook, but it takes a special kind of teacher to step away from the books and teach students about the topics that aren’t in the textbooks: life, current events, college. All of these are scary to students when they’re left blind to figure it out on their own. Having a teacher to help them navigate these things out can be one of the best blessings a student will receive during their education.
Katie Batron is a biology major with a pre-med concentration at the University of Maine in Orono. She is a 2016 graduate of Dexter Regional High School.