| By Debra Kirby |
National Teachers’ Day, which is observed in the United States on the first Tuesday of the first full week in May, is a great time to reflect on all the ways teachers have enriched our lives. Engaged teachers go beyond teaching their students the subject matter related to their classes—they also teach such skills as critical thinking, communication, organization, teamwork, and—in some cases—act as role models in ways that benefit their students into adulthood.
I was very fortunate to have just such a teacher: Mrs. Erma Colding, the science teacher at Harms Elementary in Detroit. Her class was the favorite of many students, and not just because it was filled with plants and animals. She was kind, engaging, encouraging, passionate about learning, and made science fun! Most of this I recognized at the time, but it was many years before I realized she had also been a role model for grace, dignity, and courage. I kept in touch with Mrs. Colding throughout my life, but only learned after her death that she was also a civil rights activist and a recipient of the prestigious NAACP Freedom and Justice Award.
I’ll bet there are thousands of teachers doing interesting and important work unrelated to their teaching careers that might surprise their students. There are also plenty of people who started out as teachers but went on to do other interesting and important work. For example, did you know that the famous people listed here were once teachers?
- Stephen King
- Sheryl Crow
- Gene Simmons
- Billy Crystal
- Hugh Jackman
- President Jimmy Carter
- President Lyndon Johnson
- J.K. Rowling
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
You can learn more about their life and careers from Gale’s Biography In Context.
This National Teacher’s Day, I can’t tell Mrs. Colding how thankful I am for everything she taught me, but I can continue to try to live up to her example and express my appreciation to the teachers I know who share their passion for learning with their students every day.