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On Teacher Appreciation Day, 14 educators on why they teach

Editor’s Note: Every educator has a unique reason for entering the profession. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Day on May 5, we asked contributors to the PBS NewsHour’s Teachers’ Lounge blog to answer the question: Why do you teach?

Jillian Gordon
I teach because the difference in a student’s life that decides whether they fail or thrive can be the influence of just one positive teacher, and I strive to be that teacher.


Don Goble
I teach to offer students a better experience than I had in school. I teach to help students take initiative of their own learning. I encourage and empower my students to be strong media critics and creators. Education needs a makeover and I want to help be a part of that change.

Heather Jancoski
I teach because I care about our future and the impact it has on society. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem, with the next generation of students that are going into the workforce.

Lauren Markham
Education can be a source of light for families in difficult circumstances. I love to be a part of that apparatus of hope.

Jillian Baden-Bershtein
I treasure the deep connections my students and I made as I watched them grow and change throughout the years. No matter what went on at home, when the students were in my classroom, they were respected, and heard, and equal. I feel like teaching helped me remind my students that they had worth, that they had value…that they mattered.

Bernie Heidkamp
I teach English because I want to empower my students to change their worlds—both personal and political. Reading and writing, in their most authentic forms, are counter-cultural acts; they enable students to be critics and builders of a culture that would prefer them to be simply consumers. Of course, if I empower my students, I must be willing become a student again myself. But that’s not hard to do; learning is where all the fun is.

Douglas Ray
I find joy in having conversations with students that explore the serious challenges that face us as humans—issues of equity and justice, the journey to articulate who they are and who they want to be. I know the impact of great teachers like Elizabeth Raulston, Anna Freundt, Ann Fisher-Wirth, and my mother, Allyn Ray, in shaping who I am.

Amy Mazur
Teaching has provided me with the opportunity to touch the lives of others in a meaningful way and to encourage curiosity, discovery and exploration. As a teacher it has been my privilege to challenge, support and facilitate this learning process. Witnessing the pursuit of others’ life passions and their compassion for life is tremendously rewarding.

John Czernicki
After all these years, teaching still makes my heart and soul soar and fills me with pride and excitement. I would say that the feeling I get from chatting with former students who tell me they appreciate the patience, respect, dignity and faith I had in them is an awesome feeling for me.

Gail Leicht
I teach for the same reason most teachers teach—we feel compelled to, as if we have no choice in the matter. It’s cliché to say, but it’s true—it’s not a choice, it’s a calling.

Dr. Barbara Gortych
As a psychologist, I work in education because a weekly therapy session is often just not enough for so many kids. In schools, I can help a team of educators and specialists affect the entire trajectory of a child’s life. I can assist in creating whole climates of support for students and parents. And every day, just walking down the hall, I can see kids discover amazing things about themselves and the world. It’s a wonderful, meaningful, wisdom-generating way to work in my field.

Valencia Clay
I am a teacher because I am in love with the process of growth. My personal growth, the growth of my students, and the growth of the world around us. As a teacher, I am privileged to be involved with the process of growth on a daily basis.

Dr. Marcia Chatelain
I teach because each year I get to meet new people and we work together on how we are going to collectively make the world a better place. In an age in which you get to read endless reviews online and mediate experiences through other people’s perspectives, the classroom is still a place where I can be surprised, inspired, and truly moved!

Marysol Gomez
I teach because I want to change the world.

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