Voices in Education

A Problem Set for My Teachers

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For Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked students from all grade bands to share words of appreciation for their teachers. Today, we hear from a 12th grader. 

To my teachers,

I admit, sometimes in class it seems like a decade passes before the period ends. But though each hour passes slowly, the years fly by. As I graduate and move on, the least I can do is appreciate the time, sweat, tears, thoughts, late nights, lunchtimes, patience, optimism, and love that you have invested in me.

And since I’ve been doing homework for most of my educational career, here’s a problem set for you: reasons I am thankful for great teachers, by subject.

  1. Find what is missing in this sentence: Today my English teacher talked about his colleagues, Jay Gatsby and Hamlet.
    Answer: As much as any English teacher would dream of teaching alongside such deep characters, the missing Oxford comma unfortunately tells a much more realistic story. My teachers constantly remind me to proofread my papers – thank you for forcing me to be meticulous about my work and pay attention to details.
  1. To my history teachers: Were the colonists justified in their revolt against Great Britain? Compare and contrast the American Revolution to the American high school.

    You’ve taught me that history is a dialogue between the past and the present. It’s a lot more than stories; each deep character and watershed moment invites me to consider decisions from many different, fallible perspectives. 
  1. On this production possibilities curve, find the point that best represents my economics teacher:

    Answer: Point D, for being capable of producing further up and to the right of expectations, a point that traditionally would be thought impossible. It’s not part of your job description to find opportunities for us to be civically active outside of class, nor did we expect to forgo the textbook to discuss current events – but we have learned a ton as a result, and not just in terms of grades.
  1. A project for my programming teacher who taught me to look at the big picture, to be adaptable, and to hope for the best but plan for the worst: Code the foundations of the average high school student.
  1. Every year in math, I use more variables and learn more Greek letters than I expect from a subject that used to be about numbers. So in the spirit of a class I increasingly have a hard time telling apart from English class, my math teachers have succeeded in teaching me the importance of Thoreau’s favorite word: simplify, simplify, simplify!

    Answer: 0 – I am relieved that I have teachers who can make the complex understandable.
  1. Physicists seek a theory of everything that unifies the four fundamental forces of the universe: gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. While we weren’t able to find this Holy Grail the year I took physics, I’ve found the source of the four fundamental forces driving the high school experience:
         a. The force of deadlines on procrastination
         b. The force of extra credit on effort
         c. The force of encouragement on motivation
         d. The force of education on dream achievement
    Answer: Teachers, of course. A big thank you!

Zhengdong Wang is a senior at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona and was one of two student winners in our 50 for 50 Contest this past fall. He enjoys speech and debate, writing, and stargazing. He will attend Yale in the fall majoring in international relations and computer science.

Zhengdong Wang

Zhengdong Wang 12th Grade Student

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