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Home » Subject Areas, Teaching and Learning

Game-changers: Teachers who changed my life

Submitted by on September 12, 2012 – 1:48 pm 35 Comments | 12,987 views

(c) Todd Berman

 Mrs. Stevens was strict.  Mrs. Stevens scowled.  Mrs. Stevens got after her students.  Mrs. Stevens had fiery red hair.  Mrs. Stevens was not some people’s favourite grade 2 teacher but…she was mine because Mrs. Stevens loved reading! Mrs. Stevens was, for me, a game-changer.

Teaching is an intensely personal experience, richly coloured by our own personal beliefs and worldview. Game-changers are people who force you to examine your beliefs and come to a place of action, who give you the tools to make up your own mind and move forward from there.

Mrs. Stevens would gather us all around her for read-aloud and I would become lost in another time and another place.  There was something magical about those stolen moments between math stencils and spelling lists.  It was a time like no other.  I can see myself as if it were yesterday sitting cross-legged listening with every inch of my body to the sound of Mrs. Stevens’ voice.  I was drawn in.  I was hooked.  The only thing that could break the spell was the sound of the book being closed.  A collective groan of disappointment would follow and then off we would go quietly back to our desks, back to SRA and workbooks, biding our time until the next read-aloud would sweep us away between the pages to learn more about ourselves, others and the world in which we lived.

It was not until years later that I realized that Mrs. Stevens was the first to plant the seeds for what would become a lifelong passion for literacy and literacy education. In the magic garden of read-aloud, I found what made school meaningful to me… and I never looked back.

Throughout my educational career, there have been other teachers who have come into my life, each one unique and each one contributing to the defining moments of what makes me the educator that I am today. These are my game-changers:

Lynn Butler-Kisber was my very first professor at McGill University (Montreal, Canada).  I was fortunate to have her for an entire year, back when English Language Arts was a 6 credit course.  I will never forget her quick step as she entered the classroom pushing her cart filled with goodies…picture books, manipulatives and movies of her days in the classroom.  I loved that class and I loved Lynn.  I wanted to be Lynn.  I would sit there totally mesmerized by her stories.  She would read to us, she would talk to us, she would share with us and all the while she would prompt us to think for ourselves, to consider our opinions, our connections, and what we were going to do once we were out there in the field with a class of our own.  It was the questions that we had to ask of ourselves and our students as we turned the pages of the beautifully illustrated picture books.  We learned not to only appreciate what the text had to offer but the responses and conversations that we brought to and from the text.  Rich dialogue that pushed us to look, interpret and become more aware as we explored the whole-language approach to literacy.  Although I did not know it at the time, this course and the conversations that flowed out of it became the underpinnings for my interest in Critical Literacy.

Abigail Anderson, architect and writer of the English Language Arts curriculum for Québec’s teachers.  Strong, opinionated, passionate and brilliant.  There was never a time that I left her presence without having learned something new and usually it was more than one thing.  Wow!  She made my head spin.  How could someone know so much about literacy?  How could she time and again speak so eloquently and always draw reference to both theorists and novelists alike in order to get her point across?  I would hurry home and look up the person, the quote or the book that she had offered.   I knew that I could be a fearless teacher and take the risks required to implement a Freirean pedagogy because that was the pedagogy on which our very ELA curriculum was based.  She believed in critical literacy and she put her money where her mouth was by having it live and breathe in the Québec Education Program that she had envisioned. Abigail Anderson was my game-changer because through her actions I saw the words of Paolo Freire come to life in a tangible way – and I knew what I could do to follow that same path.

Janet Radoman had the patience of a saint with her students.  She was a true teacher.  She was gifted in the ability to take anything, no matter how convoluted and explain it in such a way that everyone present could understand and then apply.  She was a constructivist in action, an advocate for her students and a champion for the unheard and voiceless.  She was the teacher that would throw away a planned afternoon math lesson if a child of hers entered the classroom sweaty with excitement and full of questions regarding the fistful of worms they had found in the schoolyard after a lunchtime rain shower.  She not only listened to her students, she engaged them in critical conversations, inquiry and dialogue.  What her students thought and felt mattered.  This is what she believed and this is how she taught.  Janet Radoman was my game-changer because she taught me how to bring critical literacy into the lives of the children we teach.

***

These four women prompted me to reflect on what I believed about literacy education at different points in my life and how I chose to teach to reflect my beliefs.  I will always be grateful to them.  And you, who have been your game-changers? I would love to hear your stories.

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35 Comments »

  • Christiane Dufour says:

    Your comments have brought me back… too many years. I too met teachers who inspired me. My high school education was with the Sisters of Saint-Anne and at that time, St. Pius X high school in Montreal was divided into a boys side and a girl’s side. And the girls’ education wasn’t quite up to the same standards as the boys’ when it came to math and science. It was all rote learning, very little fundamental understanding. That is, until Mrs McIntyre came along. This petite, middle aged woman was the first mathematician I had ever met. (My husband to be would be the second one). She not only “knew” her math and she imparted a joy in learning that I had never experienced before. The program had us studying Euclidean geometry. There was no challenge there. So she put together a math club where we were able to tackle trigonometry, analytic geometry and calculus. … better even than the boys! I don’t know how she did it, but she made us “see” the meaning behind all these equations… they suddenly made sense. Without her, I would never have developed an interest in science.

    The next link in that chain was Juan Cobo. As his name states, he was Spanish and was my grade 12 chemistry teacher. A recent immigrant to Canada, he spoke with a thick Spanish accent in which Bs and Vs were interchangeable. After the initial language and cultural shock wore off, we discovered a patient and brilliant teacher who did not coddle us, but somehow knew how to engage us in problem solving and taking up challenges. He was instrumental to organizing a first-ever science fair in the school board and that was my initiation to the real-life scientific method. Quite a leap from rote learning of chemical reactions that was taught by the Sisters. Later, as I taught grade 10 chemistry to pay for my university education, he became my department head and dear friend.

    I haven’t continued to a career in math and science. I became a teacher. Maybe it was their “fault”: they helped me discover that learning could be really fun when it’s challenging and when you become actively engaged in it.

    Thanks, both!

    • Tonia says:

      Hi Christiane,

      Sounds like you might just become the next Math and Science or Chemistry teacher…who knows? That must have been an exciting and amazing experience to have taught the Chemistry class in the same place you created that experience and memory with that same Chemistry teacher…

      You’ve made me think back on some of my colleagues, who I have worked with, before I even thought of returning back to school or envisioning myself as a teacher–where they have also helped me to uncover my inner ability and talents in that learning could be really fun, even at its most challenging parts as you have stated. I think they have planted that seed in me and I’ve not only convinced myself to return to school and try out teaching but realized that it’s that same seed I’d like to plant in that student who is a struggling learner and inspire them to “See” and “explore” their true talents and abilities…

  • Fiona says:

    The game changer for me was my grade three teacher Mrs. Pat(ricia) Thomas. She was a lot like Mrs. Stevens in that she was strict, and when she glared at you, it would terrify you in a way you never thought possible. Classroom management for her was a breeze as we all knew not to step a toe out of line. I have so many reasons for why I think she had such an impact on me. I would imagine that I was a challenging student to teach, as I would not only constantly chit chat with others, but I would finish my work quickly and resort to doodling or daydreaming. Not in Mrs. Thomas’ class though! She sparked my imagination so that I was engaged in my work, challenged me academically so I would not act out out of boredom and added kindling to the embers that was my love of reading. She introduced me to the Little House book series, which was absolutely life-changing and turned my world upside down forever. I remember going home after classes where we’d read chapters aloud, and making “log homes” out of popsicle sticks on cardboard box frames. The popsicle stick people (complete with bonnets and dresses made from rags) would stand next to and dance around their popsicle stick furniture and oh, the fun I had re-enacting some scenes from the books. She introduced me to a world where history came alive for me, and I know this influenced me in a big way to learn all that I could about all kinds of history; Eastern, Western, art, ancient, & modern. When I went into the Liberal Arts program in CEGEP, where learning history is paramount, I often thought of her.

    Mrs. Thomas also sparked an interest in caring for and a love of animals by taking us to her son’s farm in Arundel, Qc. She showed us that all beings need and deserve love and respect, and I still hold that tenet firmly in my life.

    I owe a lot to this lady, and I would dearly love to run into her one day and have the opportunity to shake her hand and thank her for helping shape me into the person I am today.

    • Tonia says:

      Hi Fiona,

      I would like to say that it is quite amazing that you remember such detail of your elementary childhood. Unfortunately, I only can recall of bits and pieces of them, so it is difficult to describe the situations that may have had occurred then, but I can say for certain that my grade 3 teacher (Claire Slim) may have been that springboard for me to improve on self-esteem and to trust that I would be able to accomplish something if I placed enough effort into it…She believed I could succeed and feeling that connection was truly important for my own personal development.

      • Araxi Markarian says:

        When thinking back to my elementary school years I best remember my third grade teacher, Ms. Barbara. She was definitely considered one of the more rigid and strict teachers.

        Many of the students were scared of being placed in her classroom. At first, I was very scared to be in her third grade classroom but after a few weeks I was actually thankful. She taught myself and the rest of the class responsibility. When homework was not done or incomplete she would make us stay in at recess or lunch to complete it, and would also take us aside to ask why we did not do what we were asked on time. By having to speak with her and not only deal with the punishment it pushed me to do my assignments. I never had a legitimate excuse as to why I did not complete any homework assignments, and I did not want to be put on the spot or feel shame so my homework assignments were always completed.

        This particular teacher also put in the extra time and effort with her students. After each math unit, she would hold review sessions for any students that had questions or were unclear on certain topics. These sessions would be during lunch or after school on Friday afternoons. They were optional, and open to all students.

  • Sylwia Bielec says:

    One of my memorable game changers was Iwan Edwards (he has a wikipedia entry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iwan_Edwards) who taught choir at FACE when I was in elementary school. Choir class contained all the students from a particular grade – 3 French groups and one English one. Mr. Edwards didn’t speak French very well, but oddly, I don’t really remember that being a part of my experience with him. He definitely had control of the large group, but he also had infinite patience and was able to coax the sound of angels from the throats of regular kids. He taught me that anyone can sing, if they practice! Later, I realized that anyone can do anything if they practice! I have followed his illustrious career over the years and am glad to see how many people he has touched with his music and his teaching.

  • Marilyn Filion says:

    A game changer, I’ve definitely had a few of those throughout my school years. Basically, I think I like every single one of my teachers in elementary school, I just had this passion for learning, or maybe was it just easy for me but no matter what it was my elementary school environment was always an enjoyable one and I know my teachers all played a special role in maintaining that pleasant atmosphere. However, I think that the teachers that have had the most impact on me were two teachers i had in high school. The first one was my french (first language) teacher, she simply had a special way of connecting with us students. She was very present in the school activities and simply showed an interest for who we were not only as students but as human beings. The second teacher, the one I looked up to the most and the one I still look up to today was my gym teacher and volleyball coach. He constantly made us work very hard but he also made us want to work extra hard. He had a way of lighting up a spark in me and making me believe in myself through his words of encouragements. In high school, I remember sharing with him my interest for teaching and I still remember him telling me he felt that teaching was the right field for me, that I would be able to achieve great things with my students if I really decided to become a teacher; he saw something in me that I couldn’t really see myself. Even as of today I am worried that I will not be good enough, that I will not create the type of impact on my students that these teachers have but I am hoping that through time my own vision of myself will grow and evolve so I set out to be the person I envision myself to be.

  • Vanessa Ponzo says:

    My memories of elementary school were all amazing. I was fortunate enough to have very good teachers all throughout my six years at Dante Elementary. One teacher who really stood out for me and who taught me a lot about who I was, was Mrs. Rosaria. I remember being a little intimidated at first because she had long black hair and used to wear bright red lipstick that would always stay perfect. Little did I know being in grade 5 would be so much fun. She started the sewing club at school and I remember wanting to join but being afraid to see what my friends would think. From a two person club, we ended up being thrity students. I remember making my first grey long skirt that touched the floor. Mrs. Rosaria said it was so beautiful that she’d wear it at a wedding if I was willing to lend it to her. I was so proud.

    Ms. Rosaria’s classes never failed to amaze me. There was not one person that was sad in her class ever, including myself. I always felt so happy. Her laugher was infectious. That year, I had the chance to participate in the science fair but I was hesitate to take part. I was always really shy in school but really good at science. I loved making over the top projects and I knew I would love it. But to talk in front of judges? I wasn’t sure about that… So here I was outside at recess when Mrs. Rosaria comes up to me and says “Vanessa, I really think you should do the science fair. I know your probably nervous about them coming to judge you but don’t be, just have fun. I believe in you.” There I was at the regionals winning gold.

  • Catherine Boisvert Valencia says:

    In my case, the game changer was in high school. Michel Danylo!
    Mathematiques 436. How I admire him for his help and patience. Maybe he didn’t change my life, but he surely changed how I see teaching now. I rememeber how I struggles with the program and how discouraged I was. I was getting home with my home work and my father would sit for hours trying to help me understand the assignment and solve the different problems we were given. Most of the nights I would end up crying, tired, not wanting to do it anymore and finally giving up for the day. He caught me right on time and started to give me tutorials at lunch and early mornings in his classroom. Every single morning, at 7 am I was sitting at my desk and he was there calm, patient and ready to help me. I think what I learnt the most about Michel is that giving your time to your students ( and people in general) is so helpful. At that point all I saw was how he helped me with learning my Math. But now I see much more than that, I see it when i have to spend a littlemore time with one student and I know how much he or she will benefit from it on the long run.
    He believed in me until the end and he never stopped encouraging me. I passed the course with great grades and the next year,during my 536 math class(I had another teacher), he came to see me and asked me how things were and if I needed help I knew I was always welcomed in his office for help!

    • Tonia says:

      Hi Catherine,

      You’re situation was quite touching, because although I didn’t post it in my original posting, I feel I should have added my sister, Lucrezia De Feudis (although she wasn’t a teacher at the time). I would have to say that my sister has helped me so much in the MAth subject area that I can count on my fingers, haha. She may only have started teaching recently, but her passion and love for this subject has truly taught me how to see it differently, that I am slowly turning ‘hate’ to actually even ‘liking’ Math… and the fact that I am actually teaching some Math lessons in the grade 4 classes seems to be already the first step in that direction.

      Would you say that Math may have become your favorite subject which you would like to, or even envision yourself teaching???

  • Tonia says:

    Hmmm…reflecting more on your definition of a “game-changer”, I would have to say there are about six people thus far in my life that have made a great significance in the way I present myself as a person and as a future educator, in the way I intervene when situations occur between students (positive or negative), how I view children and how I view and choose to react to life in itself. (These are but a few examples)
    My first game-changer would have to be my grade 3 teacher: Claire Slim. Very enthusiastic, always smiling, strict but fair, no tolerance for students being made fun of,flexible, warm and patient. I remember she took extra time to tutor me at her house because I had difficulty learning the subject (Math) and because I was very reserved and timid, she would always encourage me to speak in class.

    Then, High School, English teacher: Mrs. Colbran (LCHS-now named Laurier Senior high). She was funny, patient, had a sense of humor that would get the boys to listen and lay off the teasing of the girls who were still shy and reserved; she made me feel part of her class.She even had a nickname for us. We were her little creatures!!
    She use to teach us as if we were already in college, by showing us a glimpse of what that entailed and how much responsibility we needed to take on to be there.

    College teacher: Fred MacDonald
    I studied and graduated from my program “Special Care Counselling” in more time than the others, but with this teacher, I understood and came to realize, with time, that whichever path I set for myself to follow, that path would not necessarily be a direct one. I would have to accept, change, and act accordingly (for the detours or obstacles that places itself along the way).

    Finally, three university professors that have changed my life further into changing the way I saw things, and what sort of teacher I wanted to become, have also changed the way I thought about certain subjects, such as Math,Science, and (dare I even say it), history/Social Studies. Dr.Will Penny (Director of Child Studies programme & professor) and PhD candidate, Natasha Reid–Concordia University/ and Professor and professional artist, Anne A. Ashton–McGill. Their constructive and reciprocal approach in action,their passion for teaching and their way of connecting with students seems to be, I think, the roots of that teacher I would like to become for those students I will soon be entrusted with during my career as an educator.

  • Anne-Marie A. says:

    My game-changers were Huguette in grade 4, Normand in grade 6, and M. Sévigny and Mme Laroche in secondary 4 and 5.
    Huguette loved children. We could feel it. She was nice, and did not have to be strict for us to listen to her. She would organize activities during lunch time and after school for us. We all cried when she retired at the end of the year. I cannot remember exactly what made her such an unforgettable teacher, maybe the fact that I do not remember anything negative about my grade 4.
    Normand taught me intensive ESL during five months. In September, I did not know one word of English. By January I could understand and speak pretty well. He made me love learning new languages, and my love of languages remains today because of him.
    Mme Laroche taught Sciences Physiques and Physique, while her husband M. Sévigny taught Math 436 and 536. They were great. They were teaching in a really difficult school with students who did not really care about their education. They were still able to make us learn and enjoy the subjects. They had a charisma that made everyone listen to them, even though we would not listen in any other classes. They made me love pure sciences.

  • Elizabeth Cleveland says:

    My game-changer was my grade 2 teacher as well- Mrs. Curran. I had always loved reading, but I never had a favourite book. I just read whatever was in my classroom because I loved stories. Mrs. Curran began reading The Boxcar Children to the class and I fell in love. I finally found a book that I felt very passionate about. After Mrs. Curran finished reading the first Boxcar Children book to my class, I began reading the entire rest of the series on my own. This challenged me as a reader to read chapter books in grade 2. Furthermore, after I finished reading all of the books, I was so sad that they were all over that I began writing my own. I talked to Mrs. Curran and she helped me learn about the writing process. Although this was a big project for a 7 year old and I only wrote a few chapters, this was still a very influential part of my literary life.

    Another game-changer for me was my CT on my second stage- Melissa Racine. She was teaching a grade 2 special needs class at the time. She is so organised and good at adapting and modifying the curriculum. She really mentored me and inspired me to become a better teacher. She gave me so many helpful tips as well as constructive criticism. Her patience with the special needs children was an amazing introduction for me as it was the first time that I ever worked with special needs kids. Now that I am working in inclusive classrooms I am able to apply many of the things that she taught me.

    I would love to take this moment to thank these women for their monumental affects that they have had on my life and my teaching career. I really appreciate everything that they have done for me.

  • Amanda Arcuri says:

    My game-changer was Mrs. Klein. She was both my third and fourth grade teacher. There are a lot of things that she did that made her such a game-changer for me. She was the one who nurtured my love of writing and she never had us filling out worksheets and stencils. However, it wasn’t just the material that she taught us that made her special but it was the way that she viewed us. She respected us and did not treat us as blank slates. She realized that we had knowledge to share as well. In her classroom, we had a voice. I think she was my only elementary teacher who wasn’t a “banker” that viewed teaching as making knowledge deposits into empty minds.

  • E. Alexandra W. says:

    I could really relate to the part in this article when you say “I wanted to be Lynn.” In my high school years, I had a teacher that I wanted to be. I loved the way she captivated the classroom and the interesting activities she provided us with. She could make even the most boring units fun. Often when I am stuck in a situation in my classroom or having to make a lesson plan, I think what would she do. How would she handle the situation.

    She was my true game-changer. She made me feel that to be a teacher you could be strict but still appreciated and liked. She also taught me the importance of having fun with your class. She would ask always ask for feedback and let us give our advice on how we thought we could learn a certain unit best. Most importantly, she always made us students feel important to her. She would constantly tell us how much fun she had working with us and made a point of making each student feel special.

    As I continue to teach, I find myself developing my own style. However, I find that much of my own style reflects the behaviours of the teachers I admired.

  • Sarah Waller says:

    Madame Meillon lived in her own fantasy world. I feel as though sometimes she thought she was still living in the romantic city of Paris. She would start the day off by singing to us. She would sing French songs that I wouldn’t understand, because I was still learning French at the time. It didn’t matter though… I loved listening to her sing. In Madame Meillon’s second grade class, we learned math by playing restaurant, we learned how to write in French by creating extravagant menus, we developed our fine motor skills by sewing embroidered pillows and by making costumes, we learned to appreciate art by creating paint with berries, eggs, and charcoal. We learned through play, which made us love learning. By the end of the year, my class sang Parisian songs in a shopping center in Richmond, BC. I will never forget Madame Meillon’s smile and the tears that were brought to her eyes when she heard us sing. I used to think it was because the song really moved her, but now I think it was much more than that. Madame Meillon had succeeded. She had turned a class of twenty-odd clueless, passionless students into a group of enlightened and brilliant learners. This is exactly what I intend to do in the future.

  • Kailey Citron says:

    Elaine Zuckerman, my Kindergarten teacher was my biggest and more important game changer. All I wanted to do was be Elaine Zuckerman. My mother still tells me how excited I was for school each day just so I could be in the same room as Elaine. She taught me all the fundamentals; how to read, how to write, the names of each month, the days of the week, and how to be a learner.
    I specifically remember Elaine’s birthday ritual, which she put into place every single time it was one of her students’ birthdays. She would ask the entire class to come join her and to sit in a big circle on our classroom’s bright blue carpet. The birthday boy/girl got to stand in the middle and wear the birthday crown as the entire class sang happy birthday in unison. Then the birthday girl/boy got to hand out a special treat to each student from the birthday tray. However, Elaine made each child feel special everyday of the week and not just on their birthday. She believed that each child in our class was special, brilliant, and valuable.

  • Naomi Reed says:

    I had two game-changers in my life and I owe a lot of where I am now to them.

    In grade eight I was incredibly self-conscious, like most pubescent girls. I attended a tiny alternative elementary school in Toronto where I had been with the thirty kids in my grade all my life. The school only went to grade eight so we had to start applying to high schools. Everyone was extremely competitive and we were all fighting for spots at private schools. My grade eight english teacher, Mrs. Augustine saw that I was putting too much pressure on myself. I would spend my lunch times in the library and would barely socialize with my peers. She brought me into her office one day and told me that I needed to stop comparing myself to others. She said that everyone is different and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. She validated my writing and told me to pursue what made me happy. She spent every other lunch hour meeting with me and working with me on my writing. This made me feel incredibly special and proud for the first time in a while. She took her own time to help me and I will never forget it. She was a truly amazing teacher and I know I wasn’t the only student she made a lasting impact on. She showed me that teaching goes beyond the classroom and it is more than teaching spelling and grammer.

    My other game-changer was my grade ten english teacher, Mrs. Mistry. She was the wife of the famous author Rohinton Mistry who wrote one of my favorite books, A Fine Balance. Mrs. Mistry was a very tiny, strict, and opinionated woman. At this time I went to an all girls private school that was full of superficial and competitive girls. I stuck out like a sore thumb there, I wasn’t blonde and I didn’t wear expensive jewellery. Mrs Mistry could tell I did not fit in and told me that it was okay to be different. As the year progressed I started to turn into one of these girls and Mrs. Mistry could see that. She brought me into her office and asked me if I liked the person I was becoming. I broke down in tears and told her I hated school and everyone here. She told me that I needed to be happy at school. She confessed that she was also leaving after 10 years to teach at an inner city school because she was no longer happy. She expressed that it wasn’t quitting to make a change and happiness is the most important thing of all. I left that school after grade ten and went to a big public school where I could be myself. My life changed after that year and I owe it all to Mrs. Mistry. Like Mrs. Augustine, she went out of her way to help a student. She taught me an important life lesson that I will never forget.

    It is those two teachers that helped get me where I am today. I aspire to be the kind of teachers they were.

  • Ellie Sato says:

    I had many teachers that were positive role models but one teacher that I still clearly remember was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Ferris.

    He had taught my older sister 3 years before so I already knew who he was and had met him a few times. So when I got placed in his class, I was really excited because I knew he liked to play a lot of games. He wasn’t by any means a teacher who slacked off and played games all the time, but he always made learning fun. I still remember the assignments we had and the activities we did in his class to this day. My favorite game was the capitals game, where we would have a list of capital cities each week, and at the end of the week we would have a capitals game to see how many we could remember. We also had a quiz each week, but incorporating the game made this topic so much more enjoyable. And even if I didn’t get a good grade, he would sit down with me and explain why I got the grade I got and how I could improve.
    He was also a teacher that always seemed to be in a good mood, which is always a plus. I think Mr. Ferris was a game changer for me because he made each of us feel like we mattered. And when you are in sixth grade that means a lot. I think Mr. Ferris stood out because of his love for teaching, which was definitely visible. He made me feel like I was capable of doing anything and it is always nice to have someone that believes in you.

  • Cynthia Chaddock says:

    Game Changers
    Influential Teachers
    I experienced some difficulty in completing this activity. This is not to say that my “influential teachers” did not impact my life in a notable way, however, reflecting upon those teachers who have helped shaped who I am today took more effort than expected.
    Mrs. Bursey: Mrs. Bursey was the first English teacher I had after moving to New Brunswick from Montreal. I remember her as being a very patient woman, who persevered in the face of adversity. For example, many of her students, including myself, experienced difficulty reading. She would ensure that her classroom library was filled with a variety of reading materials to fit each individual student’s reading level and interest. She is the reason why I came to love reading in English. She would ask me what I wanted to read, and the next day, I would find it in her classroom library.
    Mrs. Bursey also appreciated her students’ home life, and how each of us had our own stories to tell. For example, she organized a Show-and-Tell one day, and allowed us to bring in anything from home that we wanted to share. I brought in two of my goats, Phoebe and Philip. I remember being so excited to show my goats off to the students and to my teacher, and to explain things like how we fed them, where they lived, etc.

  • Diana says:

    It is just amazing how we can remember these game-changers in our lives. These are the teachers who in the course of our lives guide us by imparting a rail that eventually becomes a railroad of experiences which leads in a certain direction. Thinking about the role of teachers in our lives, and the power they hold to potentially build a student is stupendous and incredible responsibility not to be taken lightly. Although every teacher teaches- not every teacher reaches, whether it is academically or not. It seems to me, that those teachers, who do reach, are those memorable game changers in our lives because they have taught something that was meaningful to us at that point in that given time. Inevitably these teachers have fixed a rail in our lives, and to some degree believed in our best even when they did not see the end of the track. It is those teachers, as has been listed, who will always be remembered and greatly admired when we look back at the source of our tracks.

  • Sara says:

    I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve had many game changers that have graced my life and shaped me into the human being that I am today. They were each vastly different individuals but they all had passion for their job in common.

    I will never forget Mrs Krupp. Not because I was convinced her name was Mrs. Crap for the first three weeks of the third grade- no I never called her by that name to her face but because like Mrs. Stevens, she loved to read. She was kind like a grandmother and bought each of her students a carefully chosen book at the end of the school year. I still have the Judy Bloom book that she bought me and whenever I read her handwritten note on the inside cover I am reminded of her devotion to literacy and her love for her students.

    I met Mr.Brown in the sixth grade. Everyone wanted to be in his English class because we all knew that he would push us. We all wanted his respect and prayed that he would never send us to Paris ( a small corner of the room next to the a model of the Eiffel Tower that misbehaved children were banished to). Mr. Brown was tough and when he got angry his big blue eyes would bug out of his head in the most disturbing manner but I loved him. I loved him because he forced me to be great and he made me redo things that I hadn’t put my whole heart into.

    In high school, I met Mrs. Bromley who is the most splendidly insane woman that I have ever met in my life. She was like a real Dorothy Zbornak- witty, sarcastic, wickedly funny, and she had the best recipe for raspberry, marshmallow ice cream. She commented on all of our work asking us questions to prompt our thinking and made us put on our best English accents to re-enact Shakespeare. She is simply the best and I wish everybody could know her.

    I also met Mr. Di in high school who was your typical, cool, young teacher whom all the girls had giant crushes on especially one who would laugh extra loud every time he said something remotely comical. Along with his natural good looks, Mr. Di was well travelled and deeply committed to social activism. He’s been tear gassed in a protest, gallivanted around India, South America, and Africa and read every book under the sun. He taught me to love words and that saying nefarious is was better than saying wicked.

    I take this opportunity to thank them, in hopes that they’ll some how stumble upon this post. Thank you for loving what you do. Thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Dimitra Kapnias says:

    I’ve had two game changers in my life: Mr. Houston, who made me believe in myself; and Jean Lachapelle, who made me doubt myself.

    My earliest memory of Mr. Houston was that of an empty chair. Yes, my Grade 10 English teacher was consistently 10-15 minutes late for his own class. Can of Coke in hand, he would always burst into the room ready to teach life through Shakespeare’s poetry. I often sat quietly in a corner desk, listening, but never participating. That’s when that mildly annoyed voice would thunder: ”Dimitra! Don’t just sit there pretending you don’t know everything there is to know about Shakespeare!” Wasted potential and unshared insight bothered him; so did teachers that failed to develop them. He pretty much bullied me into sharing my thoughts on great literary pieces, and encouraged me to take chances with my writing. He also walked up to me while I was in the middle of a final exam (that he was invigilating) and loudly threatened to personally hunt me down if I didn’t go to University to study literature. He was massive and imposing. I didn’t dare call his bluff.

    Jean Lachapelle, on the other hand, was young and quite unimposing. As my college Humanities teacher, he introduced me to the ethical grey zone that I never knew existed. I was 18, and so sure I knew where I stood on many issues. With one question, one comment, I was forced to re-examine my values and beliefs, everything I was taught in school up until that point. This was when I realized how powerful education was; how it can either narrow down a mind, or widen it with possibility. Jean’s class was the first I’ve ever taken that consistently left me with more questions than answers. It was in that class that I started developing the foundation of my philosophy of education, even though it wasn’t until years later that I even considered a career in the field. When I did however, I thought of that empty chair and the questions that shook me long ago.

  • Rebecca Clement says:

    It truly is amazing to hear how much these women have impacted you. I personally do not remember my elementary education and the teachers I do remember did not make a big enough splash in my life for me to describe them with such vigour. I especially enjoyed your little insert about Janet Radoman. She sounds like an amazing teacher that was able to embrace teachable moments. What we forget is that, though we spend time planning lessons for our students, those lessons must sometimes be forgotten for a bigger better purpose. Students learn best when they are interested and they will not learn spelling when their mind is stuck on math. The situation with the worms for instance is a great example. Had the teacher silenced the students and made them sit at their desks quietly to learn math, she would have lost the students completely. At that moment she had the opportunity to teach them something that they were engaged in and best yet, something they were questioning. It’s my policy to get the students critical thinking and questioning the world around them. I believe that learning happens bests when the students are coming up with the questions then answering the ones given to them.

  • Diana D'Amora says:

    A few game changers come to mind when thinking back on my education experience thus far. Although I cannot seem to choose one teacher that really stands out, I able quite capable in pointing out various characteristics of teachers that have made a positive impact on my views. My first game changer that comes to mind is my third grade teacher, Mrs Kisskan. In third grade I began experiencing anxiety attacks during exams. This teacher addressed my problem and was very kind and helpful. She constantly made me feel safe and calm as she always made me feel capable to attain achievement.
    During high school and CEGEP years, my two history teachers had a significant impact on my decision to becoming a teacher. Their passion for history gave me a passion to learn, so much so, that they inspired me to share knowledge about something that I too am passionate about. These two teachers encouraged me to find something that I was passionate for, and they both made me feel like I too can share whatever I am passionate for with others.
    Most recently, my Math teacher (Professor Jackson) had a significant impact on my outlook on teaching. On the first day of class, she introduced herself and then said that although teaching comes naturally to some, teaching is something that is learnt. This professor taught us about Math and various teaching techniques, but more importantly, she gave me passion for a subject that I had disliked before coming to this class.

  • Sydney Scodras says:

    Educationally speaking, I’ve encountered a number of game changing instructors over the years. The first such teacher I was fortunate enough to benefit from at the tender age of five. To this day, I still consider Mrs. Gault to be the women who propelled me along the path to reaching my full potential. she taught all of her kindergarten students, though we may not have caught on at the time, the importance of student centered goal formulation. She believed that students were an essential part of the goal making process, and thus her classroom goals were created with her students not only in mind, but at her side. She claimed that by involving children in their own plan for development, they are given a sense of purpose and an idea of where they are headed. She explained that each of our long-term goals as students should get broken down into more easily achievable segments. Having many short term goals and keeping us as students aware of them and their progress, kept the children motivated. Once we were shown encouragement after a small achievement, we were eager to master the next step and steadily progress. Mrs. Gault claimed that using the celebration of little steps on our path to enlightenment, would breed continued success and keep us looking towards our long-term goals of building strong pre-reading skills, enhancing listening and communication skills, acquiring basic math concepts, and displaying an active interest in the world. The way that she cared about each one of her students and was so deeply invested in their success, touched me as a student and shaped who I would become as a teacher.

  • Ashley says:

    This blog took me right back to elementary school. I can picture myself with a smile from ear to ear, awaiting the entrance of my fourth grade English teacher, Mrs. Daniels. With her wild red hair and equally wild teaching methods, Mrs. Daniels captivated the attention of the entire class! Looking back, I picture her as Mrs. Frizzle, from The Magic School Bus cartoon; she certainly took us on real-life adventures as interesting as those in the TV show. As you mentioned, game-changers are people that force you to examine your beliefs and give you the tools to stand on your own two feet to move on, and Mrs. Daniels did precisely that! More than anything, the year spent with her allowed me to become more self-confident and aware of my strengths. Mrs. Daniels took positive reinforcement to a whole new level therefore enabling every student to leave her classroom with a positive outlook. She was the kind of teacher who made you feel warm, safe, and loved, but also took the learning process very seriously at the same time. She encouraged her students to make mistakes, but to grow from such mistakes. As I was in the immersion program, I had only began learning English at school the year prior and was terrified to read aloud, but through the environment Mrs. Daniels had created, I soared! As the school year came to an end we were told Mrs. Daniels would be leaving and just like that she was gone. I hope that one day I may reconnect with her and let her know how much I’ve appreciated all she did for me!

  • Diana says:

    My game-changer was my high school math teacher, Mrs. Strickland. Mrs. Strickland was confident, hard-working, caring and strict. She was a very good math teacher eventhough she tested us every week. I didn’t like it, but it made sense because she explained to us her intentions of this and ultimately it was to help us. She knew all of our strenghts and weaknesses in math. She made sure she did. She was hard-working and always on top of things. Eventhough there were different learners in the classroom- her class was always ahead. This way, she was able to randomly take a whole math period away and just spend that time talking to us about life. We all listened to her stories and even lectures and philosophies- it was beautiful to hear her pour her heart out, we all just listened in awe and silence. Mrs. Strickland was approachable eventhough she was strict. She was my best teacher because despite her full desk of tests and correcting, she took the time for me when I needed it.

  • Alexis Pesner says:

    Throughout all of my years as a student, one teacher in particular made a lasting impression on me. Her name was Mrs. Co and she was my lunch advisor as well as my math teacher. Due to the fact that I had already developed a positive relationship with her as my advisor, I was more open-minded and willing to give my best efforts in her classroom. Due to my previous experiences with math teachers, I had adopted a bad attitude towards this subject. For example, in grade seven, my math teacher would frequently call me out to ask if I understood in front of the class. I often felt as though she was purposely trying to embarrass me and rather than try harder, I retaliated by paying no attention and being silent throughout the class. For the next four years, I was never interested or willing to try in mathematics. Meanwhile, when Mrs. Co was my teacher, I witnessed a new way to learn math, in a safe environment, where I would not feel judged for making a mistake. Furthermore, her teaching methods were appealing to students and I actually for the first time, noticed myself enjoying this subject. It’s a shame that it took me until grade ten to appreciate a subject and only because of the teacher, however, I am thankful to have had this experience.

  • Grace Kim says:

    The game changer came for me when I first came to Canada in grade six. She was my ESL teacher, Mrs. Durham. Even with my poor speaking and writing skills, she had her ways of continuously encouraging me. She helped me to break down the “language wall” that I not only had with the teahcers but also with my classmates. She encouraged me to get myself out there without being shy. She taught me that it is okay to make mistakes as long as I have the determination to learn from them. She had the whole English as a Second Language Program set for the students who did not have English as their mother tongue. The program included grammar, writing, reading and vocabulary. Speaking came into the learning naturally as I had to speak English in order to communicate. Without making me feel embarrassed or nervous that I may mispronounce or misspell, she corrected me with encouragement and patience. She was a true game changer who came into play a vital role in the turning point of my life. She was the reason I was able to enjoy my time and make my learning meaningful in a new/different country and at a new school.

  • Madeleine Williams-Orser says:

    There are a few teachers during my elementary school years that today stand out for being my “game-changers”. When I reflect on their impact on my learning and on my life, and when I try and search for what they all had in common, I realize that they were all teachers with whom I shared a connection with on a human level. This identifying with teachers on a “human level” is something we discussed in class last week in terms of evaluation, and it is something that I really strive toward. For real learning to occur for me, anyway, what I am learning has to be meaningful, and, when I identify with a teacher on a human, personal level, I find more meaning in what they are teaching me. Furthermore, I believe that as teachers, we teach “who we are”, meaning who you are as a person comes across in the manner that you act in a classroom and in your relationship with students. My game-changers were people that I admired for who they were.

    I hope to be somebody’s game-changer one day, to influence someone’s life in the way that some of my teachers have mine. I strive to get to know students for who they are, to have my teaching be passionate and from the heart, and to be kind to people in the simplest yet most important ways.

  • Sarah T says:

    In contrast to the majority the teacher that stood out for me was my 4th grade teacher Mme Louise. She was calm patient and had such a control over her class, not because she was scary but because she fostered an atmosphere of respect. I was a very introvert and shy student in elementary school and her classroom is the only one I remember feeling safe in. I was never anxious of what was going to happen or that I was going to be forced out of my comfort zone. She had a very close relationship to every one of us and understood all of us. She read me like a book and took me for who I was not trying to change me and at the time I really appreciated that.

  • Gabrielle MacLeod says:

    Reading your post made me think back to two of my favorite teachers who completely changed my conception of Literacy. My middle school English teacher, just like your Grade 2 teacher was strict and you truly did not mess around with her unless you wanted trouble. She was even, at times, mean but she was the best English teacher I have ever met. If it weren’t for her, I would not be at McGill, it’s as simple as that. Before I had her, I expressed myself very poorly and my literacy skills were terrible. Miss. K was her name, empowered me, she taught me how to read and how to write at a high level. She took a chance with me, I was coming straight from Europe and had little to no formal English classes.

    My second teacher who was a game-changer for me was my English high school teacher. She taught me how to write critically and how to express myself about a piece of literature.

    Thank you for making me think of my favorite teacher and for making me remember who I have to thank for being at McGill.

  • Christina Pelle says:

    Hi Melanie,
    As soon as I read the title of your post, I was excited to read it! The first few paragraphs of your post made me stop and think back of a wonderful language arts teacher I once had. Mrs. Antoinette was, and still is, my favorite teacher. She was a great game-changer for me. I had Mrs. Antoinette in grade three. Before grade three, I remember somewhat struggling with school, but I don’t remember having as much difficulty as I had in grade three. I was never really interested in what was being taught and I only enjoyed the social aspect of school (eg. making friends) rather than the educational aspect. However, after the first term of grade three, my teacher, Mrs. Antoinette, realized I was struggling with school and did her best to help me. She had me complete hearing tests, vision tests (I ended up needing glasses), she found me tutor, and she kept me in at times during lunch to go over the material I was struggling with (this did not bother me). With my teacher’s help, I began to do much better in school. Once I entered middle school, I was getting the highest grades in my English language arts class. I believe that Mrs. Antoinette was a major game-changer for me because she helped me become the academically successful person I am today. My teacher motivated me to work hard, she provided me with useful tools in order for me to do the best I could and to progress, and she made me value my education and made me realize the importance of school.
    I am proud to say that my grade three teacher is part of the reason why I want to become a teacher. She has inspired me to help children become enthusiastic about learning. There are a lot of students who are sitting in class at this exact moment and who are bored and who do not understand what is being taught. I want to become the type teacher who helps these students, whether they have learning disabilities or are simply uninterested, just like my teacher helped me. My grade three teacher made me realize that being a teacher does not only mean that my job is to stand in front of a classroom, lecture my students, and expect them to understand. Instead, my job as teacher is to educate my students based on how they learn. I want to work with my students through their struggles and be there to support and encourage them, just like my teacher encouraged me.

  • Madeeha says:

    Your article brought me back to years ago and in some ways gave me confidence. Like you I have never forgotten (grade three) reading time when we went through books like Charlotte’s Web or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These meaningful moments brought me inspiration and a love for the written word. And also an escape from math….

    I would love to read to my students regardless of the grade. And maybe now I will! My literature degree is one of the best parts of my life and i hope to bring critical thinking, depth. joy and understanding to my students through great books.

    Thank you for this inspiring post.