Education insights

A teacher’s influence continues long after graduation

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” ― Henry Adams 

Teaching is a challenging profession where the rewards can be significant, but also often invisible. Some days, teachers see the results of their efforts clearly — when a student finally learns a difficult concept or demonstrates a unique perspective on the world. But often, the fruits of their labor may not be apparent until long after the student has left the classroom.  

There are many ways to be an exceptional teacher, but it all starts from the same place: caring about students. This Teacher Appreciation Week, we are grateful to every teacher for devoting their knowledge, energy, creativity, and passion to helping students unlock their full potential. 

To help celebrate, we have gathered five inspiring stories of teachers who not only changed the lives of their students, but the course of education: 

Marva Collins (1936 – 2015) 

Marva Collins became a public school teacher in Chicago in the 1960s, where she often used unconventional methods for teaching literacy to young students. In fact, Collins was among the first teachers to use phonics to teach reading, and she incorporated literary classics and poetry into her curriculum for students as young as 3 years old. Following the Chicago riots in 1968, her district became particularly vulnerable to unequitable education. In response, Collins invested $5,000 of her own money to start the Westside Preparatory School in her own home. She accepted students who were considered learning disabled and uneducable, and she used the Socratic method to teach a high-level curriculum, including reading, literature, math, and critical thinking. Read more about Marva Collins. 

Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) 

Known for founding the method associated with Montessori schools, Maria Montessori pioneered an unconventional early-education teaching method that placed children from ages 3 to 6 in a classroom with physical materials that inspired exploration and learning. Her classroom included using beads for pre-mathematics instruction, small slabs of wood to help train the eye for reading, and graduated cylinders for small-muscle training. Children were also required to work together on shared housekeeping chores in an effort to teach them practical life skills. In addition, Montessori’s classroom did not contain desks, allowing children to circulate freely and choose the activities that interested them. Today, there are around 15,000 Montessori schools around the world, still using the method she created. Read about the Montessori Method. 

Tip –

Following the spirit of the Montessori Method, you can use LanSchool to encourage personalized learning and student collaboration in the classroom.  

Stephen Ritz (Current) 

Stephen Ritz is an acclaimed educator and founder of Green Bronx Machine, a non-profit organization known for creating the world’s first edible classroom, where he and his students have grown over 165,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx. Green Bronx Machine aims to use urban agriculture to transform the lives of young people by teaching them about healthy eating, environmental stewardship, and STEM subjects by growing vegetables and herbs in a classroom setting. Additionally, Green Bronx Machine offers downloadable school curriculum that aligns growing vegetables with daily academic instruction in all subject areas, helping other teachers who want to implement a similar style of learning. Green Bronx Machine has expanded its work beyond the classroom, creating community gardens and promoting healthy eating through farmers markets and cooking classes. The organization also provides job training and workforce development opportunities for young people in the community. Watch Stephen Ritz’s TED Talk. 

Erin Gruwell (1969 – Current) 

Erin Gruwell changed the lives of at-risk students in a California high school by creating a group that came to be known as the Freedom Writers. Gruwell required students to write in a journal every day and centered her teaching around literature, tackling themes like life, death, gangs, and war – many of which were relevant to her students. With limited support, Gruwell also purchased books for her students out of her own salary. By connecting her teaching to the lives of her students and demonstrating interest in and compassion for them as people, Gruwell fostered unexpected outcomes for the Freedom Writers. All 150 members of the group went on to graduate high school, and many proceeded to higher education. Learn about Erin Gruwell’s Freedom Writers Foundation.  

Sal Khan (1976 – Current) 

Several years before the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital learning, Sal Khan became a pioneer in online education with the founding of Khan Academy in 2008. The idea for the organization came about when Khan, who was working as a hedge fund analyst at the time, began remotely tutoring his cousin in math. He created short videos explaining different math concepts and posted them on YouTube so his cousin could access them whenever she needed help. Khan soon realized that other people were watching the videos and finding them helpful, so he began creating more videos on a variety of subjects and founded Khan Academy to make the videos accessible to everyone. Since then, Khan Academy has grown to be the world’s largest educational platform, offering over 150,000 free educational resources, including videos, practice exercises, and teacher tools and serving millions of learners worldwide. Watch Sal Khan’s TED Talks 

Tip –

Improve the access and quality of digital education in your school with classroom management software like LanSchool.  

Teachers need support to thrive 

While there are numerous stories of inspiring educators who have overcome challenges to achieve positive results for their students, it’s essential to note that teachers require supportive environments to stay motivated, optimistic, and satisfied in their profession. 

To foster such an environment, school administrators can encourage experimentation, provide opportunities for professional development and growth, and facilitate sharing of breakthroughs and successful teaching strategies among faculty members. Regular check-ins can also help identify teachers’ needs, allowing administrators to find creative ways to address them. 

Teachers need appreciation and empowerment to flourish. And when teachers flourish, so do students. 

Addressing teacher shortages with technology 

One of the ways schools can help support teachers is by ensuring they have the tools they need to be successful. Whether you are focused on addressing teacher shortages and burnout by adding virtual teachers, combating tech fatigue, or utilizing paraeducators, having the right mix of technology and training is essential for supporting today’s teachers. 


We’d love to hear from educators. Why did you become a teacher? What makes you love your job? Was there a moment of success that kept you going?  

Share your #WhyITeach story on social media and tag @LenovoEDU and @LanSchool.  

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