Next week marks the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week! As I’ve spent the last few days filling out evaluations for my college professors, I’ve been thinking back a lot to the people who came before – my high school teachers.

My high school teachers are what made my high school experience great. Over the course of four years, they taught me more than I could have imagined, both about academics and about myself. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.

I’m so thankful for everything they did. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, here are “10 Things My High School Teachers Did For Me That I Didn’t Thank Them Enough For”.

1. They made classes fun.

Even if you absolutely love a subject, if the class for that subject is boring, you won’t enjoy it. On the flip side, if you despise a subject, but the class for that subject is fun, you can’t help but enjoy it.

Between Jeopardy review games, interactive lessons and discussions, creative projects, Kahoot (a game even more intense and fun than Jeopardy review games are), movies, and guest speakers, my high school teachers always went out of their way to make sure we were all interested and engaged in the material they covered. They made class fun! Learning is so much easier when you enjoy what you’re doing and look forward to classes every day.

Jeopardy Title Card

The only thing more intense than actually taking the test is playing the review game.

2. They taught me things that I would actually use later in life.

For me, there is nothing more frustrating about classes than being forced to learn something that I will never ever use again outside of that class’s final exam. Because, you know, I need to know it, but I don’t need to know it. If there’s no useful application for it, if I’m not going to look back in five or ten years and think, “Wow! I’m glad I learned this little tidbit of information in high school!”, then what’s the point?

My high school teachers were great about making connections between what we were learning and how it was applicable to the real world. Calculus on its own seems like a pain, but businesses use it to find ways to maximize their profits, and anything that helps you make money is a good thing to know. Prisoner’s Dilemma only seems like an important theory for people studying Economics or Political Science, but it turns out it can actually help you win certain game shows, and don’t you think that might come in handy? One of my teachers taught us the basics of registering to vote, and another actually took time out of a class my senior year to teach us how to qualify for in-state tuition if we were going to a different state’s public university.

Learning for me is always a lot more productive when I understand why it is I’m learning something, beyond needing to know it for the test. My teachers always went out of their way to make their lessons relevant, and I benefited a lot more from those classes because of it.

3. They provided constructive feedback.

Actually, there is something more frustrating than just having to know something because you’ll be tested on it: getting bad or no feedback on an assignment. It’s just your grade and a check here and an x there, but what does that mean? What did you do wrong? What did you do right? What should you do differently next time?

My high school teachers never put me in this position. They gave really in-depth comments on what I had done right and wrong and suggestions on what to do next time that were actually doable. And the ones who had terrible handwriting were always there to translate their comments into actual English for you! Plus, if you ever wanted to spend more time going over your assignment with them, they were happy to block off a bit of time before or after school to help you out.

With the constructive feedback my teachers gave me, my second attempts were always better than my first ones.

Teacher Helping Students

My teachers were always willing to help me make my work better!

4. They helped me through the college application process.

During the college application process, everyone needs as much help as they can get; my high school teachers were there for me and all of their other students. From writing letters of recommendation to sitting down and talking with us about their experiences at their alma maters, they were a godsend. I’m not sure what I would have done without their help and advice.

5. They worked with me when I needed extra help.

I’ll be the first person to admit that there were some classes in high school that I just struggled with; I’m not a math or science person, and so those subjects in particular have never come easy to me. I often needed a little more help than what I got in class.

Well, I was in luck – all of my high school teachers were always willing to stay behind and work with anyone who felt like they were stuck or confused or just needed some extra help. A lot of them held tutorials either before or after school every day, and if that didn’t work for you, they’d meet with you during lunch. When I was out sick with bronchitis for two weeks my junior year, my teachers made extra time for me when I got back to go over key concepts and lessons that I had missed. I don’t know how I would have caught up if it hadn’t been for their help.

6. They opened my eyes to new ideas.

Most people think of college as the place where they’re first exposed to new, revolutionary, eye-opening ideas. I was lucky enough to have that in high school. A lot of my teachers had a lot of leeway with our school as far as designing a class curriculum went, and as a result, I got to learn some really cool things: tactics of nonviolent protests, to what extent are our First Amendment Rights actually protected, the basics of Buddhism (including how the next Dalai Lama will be chosen), how you really get picked to be on a jury, the lesser-known leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and even parts of our own school’s history that most of our administrators prefer to turn a blind eye to. These were the kinds of lessons that were unique and engaging, and I still think them about to this day.

Not only did I learn a lot more when my teachers took the time to plan lessons no one else would be teaching, but I grew a lot as a student, a citizen, and a person, too.

Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington

One of my favorite classes in high school was called “History of American Nonviolence”.

7. They encouraged me to explore my own interests.

My high school teachers provided me with a lot of opportunities to explore my own interests and were always supportive of my choices, no matter what path I chose to go down. Whether it was binge-watching Breaking Bad for an English paper on the nature of morality, diving into details of the Watergate Scandal, or writing a Western movie script, my teachers were always there as a resource and a source of encouragement when it came to exploring the things that interested me.

8. They pushed me to be my best.

Teachers have this incredible gift to see beyond who you are right now and know who you could be. And they know the best way to help you reach your full potential. My teachers constantly challenged me to push myself harder – to develop my ideas further, to be more creative in my problem solving, to go beyond my comfort zone, to value my work, and to strive to always be my best.

I’ll never forget these lessons they taught me; they made me better, and because of them, I’m still working to be and do my best every day.

9. They were incredible themselves.

You know what really inspires me, and makes me want to go out and do cool things? Seeing other people do cool things. And you know who did some really cool things? My high school teachers.

One of my teachers spent this past summer traveling across the country to promote her latest novel; one wrote an amicus brief for a Supreme Court case regarding affirmative action; one writes short stories that get published pretty often in magazines like The New Yorker; one appears regularly on The Walking Dead; one travels to Ecuador at least once a year to do conservation work; one was the very first person in his entire family to graduate from college.

They were amazing. And being around them, seeing what they’d done – it made me want to do amazing things with my life, too.

New Yorker Magazine Cover

Imagine picking one of these up and seeing one of your teacher’s short stories inside.

10. They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.

High school is a time when you can be filled with uncertainty – whether you’re sure that you’re going to fail you next history test or that you won’t make the soccer team or that you won’t get into the college of your dreams, there’s a lot of room for doubt. Sometimes, we convince ourselves that the worst case scenario is the one that will play out.

I doubted myself and my abilities a lot in high school, but my teachers never did. They always saw that I had the potential to succeed, even when I was convinced I would fail, and they never hesitated to offer their support and their guidance. They always believed in me, even when I didn’t always believe in myself.

That’s the best thing any of my high school teachers ever did for me – and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

Kit Mcgean

Kit Mcgean

Kit is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University and plans on majoring in Human and Organizational Development and minoring in Business and Women and Gender Studies. Despite having lived in Atlanta her entire life, she still doesn't know the difference between all the Peachtree roads/streets/circles/etc. Her talents include watching way too much Netflix and taking lots of pictures of her dog.
Kit Mcgean