The four years of high school come and go, but the impact of the journey stays with students after graduation. Sometimes, in the midst of being busy with academics and extracurriculars, students may not realize the benefits of their teachers’ positive influences and properly acknowledge them. Yet high school teachers are key contributors to the high school experience.
Although many teenagers generally dislike school and are often apathetic about learning, a great teacher can turn that around by teaching these individuals to overcome their indifference. Through the application of their own personal techniques that go beyond superficial teaching, teachers can make student experiences personal and goal-oriented.
For this article, JSR gave high school students and high school graduates an opportunity to look back on their high school days to recognize the helpful guidance and assistance provided by the community of teachers. Students had varying opinions regarding the extent of the beneficial impacts created by the community of teachers but many agreed that teachers assist students, especially in overcoming their disinterest of school.
“Becoming a mentor for a student involves being a positive role model and influence,” said Canyon High student Kevin Xie.
Xie continued, “This is not easily done but can be achieved through an understanding and patient attitude towards all and a logos/pathos appeal.”
“How much a teacher is going to benefit a student’s life is going to depend on how willing the student is to open to the teacher and actively pursue a positive student-teacher relationship,” said Northwood High student Aryan Pouranpir.
“Some kids who barely show up to class are not going to think much of their teachers,” according to Pouranpir, “because they don’t even see them that often. The students who stay after class to receive additional help are going to have a lot of positive comments to say about them.”
Kevin Chen, also from Northwood, agree that there is a correlation between students who try and good teachers.
“Teachers who do a good job of making a lesson interesting and go beyond the surface level approach generally hook more students and students are motivated to learn more and do better.”
JSR surveyed over 80 anonymous high school students and graduates from local areas including Irvine, Fullerton, Diamond Bar, Aliso Viejo and Glendale to gain insight into students’ thoughts regarding their teachers. 83% of students said they were significantly positively impacted by a high school teacher whereas 17% did not feel the same way.
Canyon High’s Amy Liu agrees with this majority. Liu was inspired by a teacher at her school to increase her scientific knowledge due to the teacher’s great enthusiasm and passion demonstrated for the subject.
“[Canyon High Chemistry teacher Nicole] Torneo is the hands-down best teacher I’ve ever had because you can tell she is really excited about chemistry. Because of her I now like chemistry and desire to understand more about the world on the miniscule level.”
Xie agrees and added that “Mrs. Torneo is a great example of how to be a good teacher if I decide to pursue that occupation in the future.”
However, he also commented on his observation of other teachers he had previously been acquainted with “who do not care about the students and their academic well-being.” He suggested that these teachers can improve by “being more like Mrs. Torneo.”
Nevertheless, students aren’t alone in experiencing frustration at their schools.
On TeachHub, a website that offers “education news, professional development and real teacher blogs,” a Philadelphia teacher expressed concern about “[students]…who don’t study, rarely do homework, leave projects unfinished, pay little attention to the lesson and wonder why they’re getting a failing grade.”
In her 2009 book “Wounded by Schools,” Kristin Olson shares her advice for teachers to help students who are withdrawn from education. That book advises adults to “hold your child or your student to very high standards because you believe it is possible for them to grow.”
What makes the qualities of a productive teacher that can positively impact students? According to South Pasadena High school junior Stanley Ta, physics instructor Judy Sammis demonstrates productive qualities that impact her students to do better.
“She focuses on the idea of teaching each student based on his or her learning style,” said Tan. “She’s almost always available to help other students for what they do not understand and to review. Her teaching style incorporates interesting anecdotes, tips, and the occasional life lessons.”
In general learning environments, students also feel more comfortable in classrooms where they know that their teachers are friendly and talkative, which can instigate more in-depth classroom discussions and further positively impact students.
“Normally teachers won’t talk about their private lives with their students, but [Mathematics teacher Ruth] Moonesinghe treats students like her friends which I feel is great,” said Joanna Wan from South Pasadena.
Many high school teachers not only positively impact students during their high school years, but their words of advice and instruction can carry on past the four years.
“I remember what [Northwood High English teacher Tim] Horrigan instructed me regarding sending emails to college professors,” said Jenny Lee, a freshman at John Hopkins University. “I’m so grateful for his advice because I still use it today and it has helped me in many situations.”
From little stories conveying significant lessons to tutorial sessions offered outside of classroom hours to charismatic personalities, the community of high school teachers has positively affected students in a way that many appreciate and will retain in their memories.
“They’re not your teacher forever but while they are, they help you find who you are,” said Northwood senior Eugene Chang.
“Their influence is going to stay with me forever,” Chang added. “I’m really lucky to have had such special teachers in my life.”