“We’re teachers and teaching is our life.”
– Jolie B., Kindergarten Teacher
Every day, teachers get up in front of their classrooms and do their jobs, and it’s a hard job. Still, teachers will often be the first ones to tell you that, despite the challenges, teaching is a beautiful profession. So we wanted to gather some of their best stories: the heartbreaking ones, the silly ones, the ones that will give you chills, and the ones that just might make you shed a few happy tears. There are far too many to choose from, but we’ve narrowed it down to one great story per state (and one from D.C. too!).
Why now? This holiday season, starting with World Teacher Day and continuing to the end of the year, we’re celebrating teachers across the nation. Help us by reading the story from your own state (and maybe a few others), and by supporting a deserving teacher before the year end.
We’re hoping to adopt 3,000 teachers before the year is out, and you can help!
4th Grade Reading, Abbeville Elementary School
Right now I have a student that struggles with handwriting. We have been working on his handwriting for a couple of weeks and he dreaded spending 10 minutes every day with me. The day I was going to skip meeting with him he came to me and asked to stay with him so he could work on his handwriting.
St Paul School
Several years ago, one of my students hated science. She performed poorly because she was not the least bit interested in learning what I had to offer. The previous summer, I purchased Iditarod videos, posters, dog booties, and other items used to introduce the class to sled dog racing. She loved dogs, so she was immediately drawn into this unit of study and for the rest of the year she excelled in science because she realized it was actually fun. She was in my honors class last year because she learned in sixth grade she was good at science and she continued to prove it from that moment on.
Elementary Science, Circle Cross Ranch K8 School
I teach because I love to make a difference in children’s lives. Last year, I had an extremely shy student who would whisper when she talked to adults and really struggled with reading. She did not have a lot of confidence when it came to school work. By the end of the year, she would get up in front of the class to present for her group and joined the school’s drama club. Her mom contacted me to let me know that her daughter excelled on state testing after struggling in the previous years.
Kindergarten, Amboy Elementary School
One of my students came to school not knowing his name or how to write it. We worked on this skill every day until it was mastered. He learned the letter names, the path of movement for making the letters, and proper grip. He was able to use the materials that had been donated to help him achieve this goal!
Esmeralda M. J.
5th Grade, One Hundred Twenty-second Street Elementary
I grew up in the neighborhood where I teach. I understand first-hand what most of my students have to overcome to get to school. I teach because I want to be an example for my students of how perseverance can help us reach our goals. You don’t have to forget your community to succeed in life. As a teacher, I received a second grade non reader and I had to tutor him one on one for a few weeks until he was a fluent reader. I found out he did not recognize the letters or their sounds. I used sight word flash cards and Elkonin boxes to get his confidence started and his progress was amazing.
4th Grade, Kendrick Lakes Elementary School
I know the moment that defined me as a teacher, because I remember saying “this is why I teach.” Near the end of the school year in 2012, I discovered I had stage three colon cancer. None of my students knew. One student gave me a card for the end of the year that included a poem. She explained in tear-provoking words how important I was to her life, how my teaching made her into a young woman, and how I should always be a teacher.
1st Grade, Beardsley School
I work in an urban school that is surrounded by tremendous poverty. I love to see my little first graders’ faces that are filled with wonder and eager to learn. I want to provide them the best educational setting that I can so that they can be academically successful. I struggle to help my at-risk kids learn to read when I am not provided the necessary materials that would help them. I purchase these items myself, whether it is paper to make little take home readers or crayons so they can complete grade-appropriate activities. I wouldn’t expect an electrician to do his job without the appropriate tools. Teachers should have the essential supplies to help their students succeed.
7th Grade English, Alfred G. Waters Middle School
One of my students was recently identified as needing special education services for her behavior. I made a deal with her that if she could stay in my reading enrichment class, I would let her pick what we read and learned about. She just absolutely loved Beyoncé. I went to the library and found all of the books about her that I could gather. Not only did I win her over, but by the end of the year, she was reading at a higher level than before and was starting to finally catch on some of the skills she had been lacking for years.
District of Columbia
Earth Sciences, Anacostia High School
For so long my students have been conditioned to give the ‘right answer’ rather than open their minds to the kind of curiosity and inquiry that science relies on. I teach this subject because I love watching that moment where they experience an amazing or bewildering scientific reaction that helps them make the connection to applicable real-life situations, and begins to reopen that door of wonder and curiosity. My students are all from low-income families in Southeast Washington D.C. Our students rely heavily on the generosity and ingenuity of our teachers and their networks to make sure they have the supplies they need for engaging and effective learning.
Middle School Art, Indiantown Middle School
I teach because I like helping out our community and showing our students fantastic information and getting excited about their future! I am constantly purchasing something for my classroom, whether it be a tube of paint or 50 yards of fabric for a Batik project beginning the next day. I need those supplies and I don’t let my small to non existent budget stand in my way. My classroom would be so dull if I stuck to paper and pencil.
Mary Anne P.
2nd Grade, New Holland Elementary School
Students who return years later, months later, or even days later to give me a hug, a nod, or a hello is where my passion derives. It is within each human being to lend compassion to another. We, as educators are so fortunate to have that daily. That is my simple, honest reason for being a teacher.
5th Grade Special Education, Hilo Union Elementary School
I had a student who could not sit inside a classroom – so I developed a garden to help him focus! The garden is seven years old now.
1st Grade, I T Stoddard Elementary School
One of my students called home one day to celebrate a milestone he achieved. When I got his mom on the phone, I handed the phone to him. He was so happy about his achievement, he burst into tears and could only talk through tears and sobs. Every minute and hour I spent working with him was so worth it at that moment. We were all so proud of him. Even though he was only seven, he understood how his hard work had paid off.
High School Cultural Studies, Regional Alternative Attendance Center (RAAC)
I teach at-risk teens who mostly have drug or weapons charges and have been expelled from their home schools. For most of my students, this is their last chance to succeed in a school setting. These are smart kids who made horrible choices. We have somewhat of a family setting in my class — a safe zone in their complex lives. We are working on a culture unit in sociology and the personal portraits they created via scrap art supplies almost made me cry. They have so much to express and art seems to be a trusted medium for them.
6th Grade Social Studies, Maconaquah Middle School
I teach because Social Studies connects students to the world around them through the study of the past and present. I teach for the student that says “I love Social Studies”- not because it’s their favorite subject, but because together we find a way to bring it to life and make it fun. That’s what makes me passionate, because Social Studies can reach even the most challenging student somehow.
Middle School Reading, Dike-New Hartford Junior High School
I teach 8th grade. Sometimes once the kids leave us for the big ol’ high school, they pop back in to visit and say hello. I had a particularly outspoken student, one where you never knew what would come out of his mouth (it wasn’t always the nicest), come back to visit after school one day. I asked him how high school was and he said “It’s good, just different.” I asked him why and he replied, “because I knew you cared about me. I’m not sure yet up there.” It touched my heart that he may not have remembered every topic we studied, but he did remember how he felt when he was in my classroom.
Special Education, Robinson Middle School
In my first year as a teacher, I was tasked with teaching nine classes a day. One of those classes had a student who struggled significantly because he was almost completely non-verbal and not potty trained. During his last year in middle school, I developed a plan to help. By the time he went to high school, he was using the restroom independently and was able to remain in school without any health concerns.
Art, Malcolm B Chancey, Jr. Elementary School
I taught in the primary classroom for 10 years teaching reading to K-2nd grade students. I have always been close to my students and their families. When I moved to art, with 700 students, I felt I lost that inspirational part of my job. But I attended my school graduation and as I listened to the 5th grade speaker. She spoke of who was most inspirational to her; it wasn’t her family, or classroom teacher, it was ME! I cried and cried, happy tears!
Math, E.b. Williams Stoner Hill Elem Lab School
I had a very disruptive student who never did homework, so I made a home visit. I realized why he was like this and I began treating him like my child. If he needed supplies, he told me after school and I sent him home with them. Two years later, he became Student of the Year.
11th Grade Math, Fryeburg Academy
Hands-on activities help students to heighten their senses and create memories. For example, a shy young student approached me after class last spring. He asked if it was okay that he had welded together a dodecahedron model at home. It was a few feet in width and inspired. He connected his mathematical understanding to his passion for the visual arts.
Pre-K, Belvedere Elementary
Young children steal my heart and make me know everyday why I love teaching. A few days ago, I introduced my library center to my class. I read with expression and try to squeeze in as many fun books as I can. Recently, I heard two of my students rereading one of our favorite stories with expression. I was thrilled to hear her read the book with joy to a friend. Helping kids find a love of books and feel like readers is my goal.
I had a student last year who was unable to purchase the supplies needed for class…and too embarrassed to tell me. When I eventually sat down with him and flat out asked if it was because of a money problem, he said yes. I bought him the supplies he needed and it was the first academic year in two years that he had been successful.
7th Grade English, Portland Middle School
Last year, a young man in my class had his locker right outside my classroom. I would greet him each morning and see him between each class. He was often wearing the same sweatshirt and jeans every day, and didn’t have what he needed to stay organized. I decided to help him out. Something as simple as giving him extra folders for his classes really seemed to help him believe that he was important and able to be successful.
8th Grade, North View Jr.
I teach special education to ensure that all students become active members in society. This helps all students feel valued and important. I had a set of struggling readers in the fourth grade. I was told by other staff they would probably never read and to do my best. I ordered supplies with donations provided by AdoptAClassroom and two of the four were reading and the other two were able to recognize site words by the end of the year.
11th Grade Math, Pascagoula High School
I had a student that was two classes short of graduating. I tutored him, came up on the weekends, and stayed after school for him to take an online class to regain his credits. I remember his smile while walking down the field on graduation night!
I have a very young student with PTSD. She has a passion for birds, as I do. I shared some of my pictures with her, and when she makes progress or does what is needed, she earns a picture. I was able to get her a scrapbook and special colored pencils to make her own bird book.
1st Grade, West School
I teach to build the future. As a first grade teacher, I watch amazing growth occur in a very short period of time. The growth of students in reading is perhaps the most exciting to watch. In a short ten months, I have watched a non-reader become a successful and fluent reader. This transformation is not without struggle, but seeing a child pick up a book and read confidently for the first time is the best feeling in the world.
Immanuel Lutheran Elementary
I love teaching because it is our responsibility to help raise respectable, intelligent youth. We all MUST do our part. I have, on several occasions, had students with special needs in my classroom. I have been blessed to be able to help them understand and find success in specific areas of the curriculum because we were able to purchase manipulatives that were influential to their learning.
5th Grade Special Needs, Vincent L Triggs Elementary School
I teach for many reasons. That moment when my student with specific learning disability “gets” the concept of multiplication. Or that moment when my student who has difficulty initiating and maintaining relationships asks to give me a hug. Or that moment when my student with emotional disturbance has an issue-free day in his General Education classroom and makes a friend.
I had a bright boy who had a behavior problem for most of the year. It was with an activity set I bought through AdoptAClassroom.org that we finally made a connection. His behavior improved from that day on.
5th Grade, Laura Donovan
I teach because I love kids. They are innocent sponges, eager to work and learn no matter what happens when they leave the comfort of our classroom. I do my best to reach goals and set the tone for my classroom. The supplies that I have been able to get through AdoptAClassroom.org have made a huge difference. When families can’t afford to provide their children with technology and supplies, and I, the teacher, am running low on funds, AdoptAClassroom.org is there for us!
3rd Grade, Hillrise Elementary
My first year teaching I did not have any technology in my classroom. The three computers in my classroom did not work and although a work order had been put in, no one ever came in to work on them. I had a student reading at a first grade level who could not complete the research that we were doing using materials we had. About that time I received a donation from Adoptaclassroom.org and I was able to order a tablet. We found visual representations and information for this student to complete a research report. She created a power point and presented it to her classmates. The happiness and pride that the student felt could be heard in her voice as she presented.
5th Grade Special Education, Ps 282 Park Slope
I remember one year, one of my students came to school on the first day with no supplies. When I asked her about it, she started crying. She went on to explain to me that her mom recently had a baby and she did not have the time or the money to purchase anything for her. As a teacher, I usually purchase extra school supplies for students, so I had enough to give her. I asked her who her favorite character was and later that day I purchased a bookbag with that character on it. When she came to school the next day, it was filled with everything she needed for the school year. She was overjoyed and appreciated it so much that she worked so hard during the year because she knew I cared about her.
1st Grade, Selma Elementary
Our students are raised in homes where drugs, gangs, and violence are normal. When I started having students rate their morning (1-4, 4 being the worst), I realized that before school they were: up all night at a party, watching a parent escorted out by police, witnessing a fight, and hungry. They were affected by outrageous things and school was where they felt safe. Creating a community for them to thrive in inspires me to continue teaching despite the difficulties.
Kindergarten, Liberty Elementary School
“I LOVE to read!” “This is the best part of my day!” “I counted it just right!” Comments like these from my kindergartners make my day. I love watching this excitement grow into a love of lifelong learning.
Megan G. J.
Kindergarten, Euclid Park Elementary School
I had a child who was struggling to write her name. With the use of Puffy Glue, I was able to help her learn how her name felt. She could trace over it with her fingers. It didn’t take long for her to begin to write her name on her own!
11th Grade English, Dewey High School
I gave up a job where I made a LOT more money than I do now, and I occasionally ask myself why. But then there will be a moment in class where a random student says “What!? Does that mean…” and connects some grammar rule to why he always sees something written some way. One of my students came back to me to ask for help with a resume for the job that will lead him directly into his dream job. He had remembered I mentioned in passing that I had helped a lot of students with resumes, so he came in for help – and made sure I knew when he got the job.
5th Grade, Witch Hazel Elementary School
Having the necessary items ready for new students allows them to feel a part of the classroom right away. Students who move frequently may not be able to get their supplies from their previous school if they’re leaving a domestic violence situation, family was evicted, etc. When I was a kid, school was a safe place. When I was a kid, I idolized my teachers because I thought they knew everything. I want kids to feel safe and develop that same love for learning that my teachers developed in me.
Reading and Math, Avalon Elementary
I teach so that I can see the spark in their eyes when the concept I’ve been trying to teach is understood. It gives me goosebumps to think of my students that get that “aha” moment. The ”aha” moments make everything I do worth it: all the after school meetings, extra paperwork for Title I, and the stress of the daily grind.
We are still searching for a teacher to represent Rhode Island.
English, Academy Of Hope Charter
My kids (students) are my life. I call them my kids because that’s how I treat them. One of my students began in my class as a student who often got into trouble. With me, he had a clean slate. He struggled with ADHD, and I simply allowed him to be occupied at his desk as I was teaching. Throughout that year, with supplemental materials that I purchased, I was able to move him to a 6th grade reading and writing level. Today, he is a senior and his mom still swears that I am the reason he will be graduating.
Edison Middle School
I teach because I have a gift to be able to make connections with my students. Students cannot learn in an environment where they don’t feel safe or feel judged. I helped a student make a model of an atom with materials from my classroom cupboard. He used pipe cleaners and different colored or shaped beads for the protons, electrons and neutrons. Without my help, he would not have had the supplies to do this.
Computer Science, Bruce Elementary School
Most students use my classroom to complete intervention assignments. Some students struggle with math. I have on several occasions helped students with assignments. Because I am not a traditional teacher, I don’t receive any funds for classroom supplies so I have to purchase everything myself. Having paper for the printer is a HUGE HELP.
10th Grade Science, Copperas Cove High School
Teaching is the best way I can think of to fulfill my civic duties. It is also something I feel called upon to do by a higher power. Having an impact on the lives of students is both empowering and awe-inspiring. Several of my students have gone on to be first-generation college graduates. Many of them contacted me after the fact to say that without my guidance and preparation they would have felt unable to power through and finish their degree.
11th Grade English, Two Rivers High School
By the age of 17, I had dropped out of high school, run away from home, and found myself the mother to an innocent baby boy. I worked 55-60 just to make ends meet, always thinking about how badly I wanted to be at school with my friends. One unforgettable teacher whose lessons followed me, nudging me back into school, all the way until I finished my Master’s Degree and stepped into my own classroom. So, despite all of the challenges and difficulties that come with being a teacher, I am reminded daily that I am changing lives by dedicating my own life to helping at-risk students. Education saved my life. It can save my students’ lives, too!
Kindergarten, Hinesburg Elementary School
I have a student in my class who has a challenging home life and who has engaged in a great deal of negative behavior since he joined my class. This child craves attention, any way he can get. Slowly, I am showing him that he is amazing and kind and can get attention by making positive choices. His daily smiles and hugs make all of the challenging times worth it! I love ALL of my students, but especially those like this child, who need school to be a safe and happy place where they can grow and learn.
Centre Ridge Elementary School
One of my students with autism was having significant difficulties in keeping their hands calm while working. I was able to purchase stress balls through AdoptAClassroom.org to help my student make their hands useful while continuing to be attentive during instruction. By keeping their hands busy, they were able to focus on what was being said and they had no questions about what they should be doing after they began their work.
English, The Dalles-wahtonka High School
When I was a kid, my home life was one of chaos with drugs and alcohol, divorce and depression. School was my haven. My teachers saved my life. The library was my home. I want to provide that for the students of today. I provide stability and the comfort so that they know today, in English class, we will read and write and I know we will learn. It will be clear with standards on the board and learning targets I can achieve.
9th Grade Math, Fairmont Youth Academy
I teach because I want to share my love of math with others. My students come to class and can’t help but be drawn into the excitement. With patience, I can get my students to lose their fear of math. I love when they tell me, “I think I can do this!”
1st Grade, St Johns Lutheran School
I had a child with ADHD who had been removed from a previous classroom due to the inability to focus on learning and complete tasks. With the exercise ball chairs that I purchased and with the help of an individualized behavior chart, this child became very successful in the classroom, turning incomplete assignments into high-quality, meaningful work.
5th Grade, Paradise Valley Elementary
Two years ago, the class I worked with struggled maintaining focus and was very active! With funds from AdoptAClassroom.org, I was able to provide weighted socks, bouncy chairs, fidgets, and calming stations for my students. We had a successful year and my students learned life long skills to apply forever.