Teachers are always told that even though students may not say it, the impact a teacher can have on a student can last a lifetime. And while that is lovely, it’s also one of the most infuriating aspects of teaching. Teachers rarely see the long term benefits of their tireless work. But I know one teacher who has been told time and again how much of an impact she has made on more than 30 years of students. She’s my mom, Linda Feldman. My mom just retired from more than 30 years of teaching, first as a junior high school social studies teacher in Brooklyn, then as an academic support specialist at Brooklyn Law School. My mom was responsible for developing academic support structures that empowered struggling students with the skills to succeed in law school, structures that have since been replicated all over the country. My mom was the one students went to when they thought they couldn’t make it through law school. My mom was the one students went to when they were convinced they couldn’t pass the bar exam.
My mom was the one students went to when they thought they couldn’t write or read well enough to pass their classes. My mom was the one students went to when they needed to cry. My mom, perhaps more than any other person in that school, helped students get across that graduation stage. I saw how my mom listened to her students, honored their words, told them they could succeed, and then provide the supports to ensure their success. I spent countless afternoons in that law school, and everywhere I went, people always told me stories about how my mom was an amazing teacher. This didn’t only take place in the law school. Indeed growing up, I remember walking through the streets of downtown Brooklyn and never getting more than a few blocks before someone stopped to talk to my mom to thank her for every thing she did for them. What my mom may not have known then, but what I now know, is that every time a former student approached her to acknowledge and appreciate what she did for them, I saw magic. In a world defined by the pursuit of money and materialism, my mom’s value was in the giving of herself to support young people and their educational pursuits. It is probably no surprise that I have followed in my mom’s footsteps to become a teacher myself. At her retirement gathering, my mom thanked and acknowledged all of her coworkers and colleagues, but she ended by reminding us of what really matters. “Really, it’s always been about the students.” Ain’t that the truth. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week everybody, especially you, mom.
Photo courtesy of author.
Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Education Post. Prior, he was the twelfth-grade world literature and Advanced Placement literature teacher at Mastery Charter School's Shoemaker Campus, where he taught students for eight years—including the school's first eight graduating ...