As a high school student who plans to become a teacher, Teacher Appreciation Week is always an exciting time. Not only do we actually stop to recognize the important work that educators do and thank them for it, it is also the week that CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year is announced. (Congratulations to Mrs. Shearer, the 2011 National Teacher of the Year!)
This year, I was lucky enough to attend the National Teacher of the Year awards ceremony, which was held in the Rose Garden at the White House, as well as meet Secretary Duncan. It was an amazing experience to meet the U.S. Secretary of Education and be among all the State Teachers of the Year. Hearing about the impact these teachers have made, I couldn’t help but think about my favorite teacher, Ms. Mariarosa da Costa, and the influence that she’s had on me and so many of her other students.
Like the State Teachers of the Year, Ms. da Costa is one of those teachers that students remember for a lifetime. In fact, my passion for teaching was inspired by her. She was my first and second grade teacher at the Oliver Street School in Newark, New Jersey. Ms. da Costa infused in me my love for reading. I vividly remember her giving me my first chapter book, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. She taught me that reading could open up a new and exciting world, a gift that has remained with me to this day.
Ms. da Costa also taught me the importance of a teacher who cared deeply about her students. She was typically the first teacher to arrive each day at school and often the last one to leave. She took such pride and happiness in our progress and accomplishments. Even as a small child, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher like her.
Ms. da Costa showed me what an important role schools and teachers play in children’s lives. They bind neighborhoods and communities together. They represent hope, trust, joy, laughter, opportunity, progress, and mobility. As President Obama said yesterday at the National Teacher of the Year Ceremony, “Everybody has got a story like that, about that teacher who made the extra effort to shape our lives in important ways.” If you haven’t done so already, be sure to thank the teacher that has made a special impact on your life during this special week.
Leilani Bell is the national student president of the Future Educators Association. She is a senior at Science Park High School in Newark, NJ. In the fall, she will begin her college education at The College of New Jersey. Her goal is to become a high school history teacher.