Mr. Awesome Teacher Man

Earlier this week, The Middle Child got a perfect score on his algebra quiz. On the way to school, I mentioned the quiz. I told my son I was proud of him and that I was happy he was doing well in that class.
He told me that he struggled in the beginning. “I had a hard time with it at first, but my teacher pulled me and a few others who were struggling aside and helped me understand. Since he did that, it clicked and I’m doing better!”
I told him how lucky he was to have a teacher that did that for him. I then went on to share the story of The Year I Failed Algebra.
I did fine in the beginning of the class, but as things got more complicated, I started to lose my way. I began to feel stressed and panic, thinking I would never understand. My mom tried to help, but she didn’t understand it. She advised me to ask my teacher for help.
I remember walking into her class one afternoon. After she had went over our work for the day, I approached her desk. I told her that I was lost and needed help.
“Read your book.” She said, without even looking up at me.
“I did read the book.” I replied. “And I still don’t get it.”
“Read it again.” She snapped.
“I’ve read it over and over again and I can’t seem to understand.”
At this point, she became irritated with me.
“All I can tell you is the read the book.”
I remember feeling stupid and angry and, like, WHY WON’T SHE HELP ME?
At this point, my Inner Activist came out (I got that from my mom, who once organized a protest in elementary school when she wasn’t happy with things in school.)
“Look!” I said, LOUDLY. “You’re the teacher! You’re here to help me! I’m asking you for help and you won’t help me!”
“Read the book.” She said. Again.
“Fine!” I said. “If you’re not going to do your job as a teacher, I’m not going to do MY job as the student!”
I stormed away from her desk, sat down at mine and put my head down in the I’m Taking A Nap In Class Position.
From that day forward, I did not do another homework assignment. I failed every test. And she never said a word about it.
When my son told me about his teacher– about how he had went out of his way to help him– I knew I had to acknowledge his actions. I came home, looked up his email on the school website and sent the following email to him.

Hi Awesome Teacher Man,
My son, Ethan, is a student of yours. This morning we were talking about algebra– I asked him how he was doing. He told me that in the beginning he struggled, but that you took time to help him and that now he understands and is doing well. He said you’re a great teacher.
I wanted to write you to say thank you for helping my son. I had a horrible experience with algebra in high school, because I had a teacher who refused to help me. (I failed.) Knowing that you took a little extra time to help my son to ensure he “gets it” means a great deal to me. I wanted you to know that.
I wanted to Cc the principal on this email, but I couldn’t find her email address. Feel free to forward it to her and tell her I said the world needs more teachers like you. 🙂
Thank you!

Just a minute ago, I received the following email from the principal:

Hello Yvonne,
Thank you so much for the kind words you sent to Mr. Awesome Teacher Man. I have been very impressed with Mr.Awesome Teacher Man’s ability to calmly approach a difficult subject and make it accessible to kids. Having you acknowledge his contribution to your son’s success means everything to a teacher. Thank you for your time and encouragement. Awesome, yes?
I’ve emailed teachers in the past, to thank them for a job well done, or for taking extra time to help my child, but I don’t think that I do it often enough. You bet yer’ass that when a teacher does wrong by my child, I make sure they know about it right away. But I’m not always so quick to acknowledge when they’re doing a good job.
That’s going to change. I am going to make more of an effort to let the teachers who are doing it right know that I appreciate them, that what they do matters, to me and to my child.

26 thoughts on “Mr. Awesome Teacher Man

  1. Punkinnoodle

    THANK YOU!!! Thank you for emailing his teacher and thanking him. I teach high school, and it is TOUGH a lot of days. There are many times I go home and think, “did I make a difference today? Did what I taught matter to ANYone?” Letters like yours are kept and cherished. I know for me (and many other teachers) we keep letters like yours and read them on the really bad days. Thanks for making his day, and mine too, to know that occasionally a parent is grateful for one of the thousands of extra miles of a teacher.

  2. Beth Nixon

    About two years ago, I decided that I should acknowledge when people do good (as I’m very quick to acknowledge the bad). I’ve emailed teachers, principals, the gym teacher, the children’s librarian. I’ve gotten such great responses from doing it, that it makes MY heart happy and I actually look for the good now instead of seeing the bad.
    You made that teacher’s day and you are awesome for doing it!!

  3. Lindsay

    Great story! I’ve been thinking about this a lot, too. I feel like parents are so quick to schedule conferences and complain, but they rarely take time to contact a teacher when there are NO problems, and say thank you for that.
    I’ve made it a point this year to write a few sentences telling Punky’s teacher what I’m happy about that she’s doing every time I send her an e-mail on any subject. I think it really helps parent-teacher communication, especially at the younger level.

  4. Christina

    My husband is a teacher, and it’s notes like these that keep him teaching.
    School systems lose a lot of great teachers due to under funding and ill-informed school boards. These notes from parents are worth more than gold.
    Thanks, Y.

  5. Amy Girl

    Thank you for the reminder. We certainly need to let those teachers, who are doing a great job, know just how grateful we are for them.

  6. Melissa

    So awesome. So. Awesome!
    My son had huge math issues when I began to homeschool him in his 8th grade year (after making that scary difficult decision that public school was beyond not working and I am not rich enough for most private schools that would likely not help him anyway). Turns out he just didn’t know his basics very well. But so many times in math a teacher would sit there and explain Step 5 over and over and over again or YES, say, “read the book,” when really he needed a few minutes to go over Steps 1 THROUGH 5. Just a few minutes to listen from a teacher makes all the difference!
    (Kid is acing math now, ftw.)

  7. rebecca

    Even though that teacher was probably already fighting in your son’s corner (so to speak), you can guarantee he will go out of his way to help your son. You’ve just encouraged a good teacher to be even better!
    As a teacher, I wish more parents took the time to treat us the way they’d like to be treated. Golden rule anyone?

  8. Lissa

    You didn’t just make that teacher’s day – you gave him something that makes him feel good about his entire career. What an amazing gift!

  9. Carrie

    That’s awesome. I think we all forget to acknowledge the good in people or things or services. I’m sure you made that guy’s day.

  10. Lala @ live out loud

    Thank you. Notes like yours fuel the energy
    of an overworked, underpaid teacher and are exceptionally few and far between. In light of the suicide of LA teacher Rigoberto Ruelas, I hope more people begin to realize the power of recognition. Your efforts haven’t simply impacted one person, but the lives of those he affects each day. That’s pretty powerful, when you think about it.

  11. Kyla

    Good for you. My kids are just in elementary, but I try to encourage the teachers however I can, either with words or a gesture. I volunteer and try to support them when I can.

  12. Mamacita

    Bless you, dear Yvonne. You are such a good mom, and such a good person. I know for a fact, and from personal experience, that your message to this teacher will be something he’ll remember and keep, forever.

  13. AA

    That is one of the best things you can do for teacher- at least on a personal basis. Notes like that, and from students or former students, meant everything to me when I was teaching. I always saved them. IF I ever go back it will be because I miss the kids and parents like you.

  14. Louise

    That is one of the best things you can do for a teacher, Yvonne. Thank you for appreciating his hard work and caring. This kind of acknowledgement can often be a bright spot in an otherwise horrible day.
    I was going to write a whole long story down but figured that instead of writing a blog post in your comments I’d just put it on my blog.

  15. AJ

    THANK YOU! As a teacher, I never know if what I am doing is impacting the students – I hope it is, and I always try my best to help them when I see that they are struggling – that is my job. When a parent tells me that I have mare an impact in their student (whether tiny or huge), it just reminds me why I went into teaching in the first place. You ROCK Y! Way to make that teachers MONTH!! 🙂
    PS: I also suck at algebra. Took ’till grad school and an AMAZING teacher who worked with me one-on-one for weeks for me to “get” it. I got an A for the first time EVER in math! 🙂

  16. Rachael

    It’s awesome that you took the time to write to him. I think that opportunities to let people know how much they’re doing for us or our children, or for other people in general, come up so often but we don’t always take them.

  17. Chatty

    A bloggy friend suggested that I stop by and read this post.
    Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging your son’s teacher. I am so adamant about this because I am a teacher. It’s not often that we receive positive messages. We know they are out there, but an angry parent is more apt to approach us rather than a happy parent. I save every positive email and post them in my office at home. I use them to keep me going. Heh, I even anonymously post them on my blog.
    I am one of those teachers that works hard to make a difference, and I really believe I have. I am sorry you had a rotten experience. I had one too, and that is why I became a teacher.
    Thank you again. 🙂

  18. GSchneider

    Wow! Good for you. While I am not a teacher I do work for the government and most days I just get run over with complaints about my job. On the few days I get rare compliments it feels so great! I will have to remember to do this when my daughter hits school. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.

  19. valerie huerta

    Wow! This is just so great! Made me tear up a bit! 🙂 “Sometimes, I get emotional over fonts.” Jkjkjk…but I do get emotional when it comes to people being really awesome, like this. And you’re right, we don’t always acknowledge when someone does right…I’m gonna try to work on that, as well. 😀
    You’re awesome, girl!

  20. Liz

    I think people should do more of this in every aspect of life – not just teachers. I had a store clerk at Target a couple of weeks ago help me out when I forgot to hand her my coupons. It was a major pain for her to help me, just so I could save about $5 on my purchase, but she did it without so much as an eyeroll. In turn, I made sure to take a few extra minutes to stop by customer service and fill out a positive comment card about her. I don’t know that it meant anything to her, but it meant something to me and I just wish we would all take more time to acknowledge the people that do even the littlest – most expected things right.

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