The Teacher Who Changed My Life

I was telling the story recently of the high school teacher I had who truly changed my life in a tangible way.  I had no way of knowing at the time but had it not been for her, I would never have ended up a graduate level student getting a business degree in Management.

I was a total dunce at math starting in about the tenth grade.  I was starting to struggle, and they kept trying to teach me visually, and I am not a visual learner.  By the time I reached twelfth grade, I was dancing the line between passing and failing and it was a terrible mess.

Mrs. B was my math teacher, and she would have described herself as a little kooky.  She had funny farmyard analogies for remembering concepts which seemed ridiculous until they came back to you during an exam.  During the mainstream senior level math class, I struggled and ended up passing only with four percent to spare, but Mrs. B saw something in me.

She came to me after class one day and said she thought she understood why I struggled, and if I would grant her one more semester, she would turn me from a struggling math student into a confident one.  Even though I had barely passed her class, I had met the requirements for what I needed to graduate, but I was curious what it was she saw in me.  No teacher had expressed such faith in me before this.  No other teacher had been willing to go out of their way to guide me in this way.

I dropped the elective I had in my final semester of high school and signed up for her remedial math course.  I had never been a remedial student.  Not only that, but this was totally elective, as I already had met the graduation requirement.  But in the weeks to come, she changed me. 

I left her class and went on to college not just understanding but fully grasping and actually excelling in math.  In every level of math that I have taken in post-secondary, I have been top of my class.  I help other students.  Many years have passed since then but I have never forgotten that I walked into Mrs. B’s class as an insecure, skeptical student and walked out confident and totally empowered.

When I got into statistics in college, I was the exact kind of student that my instructor didn’t like.  I was a little bit giggly and goofy and had become good friends with the girl next to me, and we were having a ball every day in class.  My instructor became convinced that I was cheating.  She provided a bonus question at the end of every test, and as a result, my grade in the class was over 100%.  On the final exam, she stood over my shoulder and stated that I must be cheating.  I kind of laughed and asked who I was cheating off of since I had the highest grade in the class.  She insisted it must be programmed into my calculator.  So I handed her my calculator and said, “Then watch me do this without one.”  I turned in my exam and grabbed my stuff to walk out, and she said, “I can’t believe someone like you can be this good.”  And I smiled and said, “You’re welcome for helping raise your class average.”

In the years after that, I reached out to Mrs. B via email to thank you for the impact she made on my life.  Not just in learning math or empowering me academically, but in changing my whole life.  She taught me that if I put my mind to something, I can achieve it.  That is a life lesson I will never forget.