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Catherine Okafor Headshot

Teacher Appreciation

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There are people in this world that go the extra mile and give 150% in whatever they do. On the other hand, there are those who do just enough to get by. Do you fit into either one of those types? Or better yet, have you met someone who goes that extra mile in order to help you? No, I don't mean your "perfect boyfriend" who gave you his jacket in order not to damage your new Zac Posen dress. While that is nice and all, I'm talking the type of people who do nice things without expecting anything in return.

While in college, I have encountered both types of people. I know of some professors and college personnel and administration that do just their jobs. I mean. They come to work, sit at their desks, and do the bare minimum and go home just to do it again over and over. Nothing is wrong with that. However, the professors who go out of their way to help their students are the ones that can have a long-lasting impact on someone.

My high school English teacher was a clear example of that type of person. Growing up, I was the "C" average student. I wasn't involved in any extra-curricular activities nor was I voted "most likely to succeed." I was that student who enjoyed learning, made new friends, sat in the back of class in hopes of not having the teacher call on me to realize I didn't do my homework because I stayed up late hanging out with my two sisters instead.

She saw the potential in me and would push me to do more. I would push her to stop pushing me. Let's just say for the entire semester, we were in a push war until I realized that she was only trying to help me. I know if she reads this she would love to say, "I told you so". It was my senior year of high school and I wasn't seriously thinking about going to college.
I knew I always wanted to go but I didn't know how to. Once she realized this, she would give me articles, paperwork, books, etc. after class about SAT prep, college admissions 101, scholarships, financial aid, etc. I would go home and read until my mom would tell me to go to bed. When I would return to school the next day she would spend her planning period and breaks answering all of my questions about college. Anything that I asked, she was there to answer it.

In the end, I graduated high school and soon started my journey to college. With the help from her, my mom and older sister I made it to college. The special time that she would set aside for me and only me will be forever cherished. She didn't have to help me. She could have pushed in return. I didn't pay her to do it. I didn't have to beg. She was doing it with the hopes of earning "Teacher of the Year." She always welcomed me with open arms. It made me feel so special. Even though I wasn't voted most likely to succeed, with her help, I knew I would succeed no matter what.

She made one of the biggest impacts on my life. I never take people like that for granted. During the same time, I had a high school teacher who told me that I shouldn't go to college for fashion design because I wouldn't be good at it. It devastated me and discouraged me. Yes, I wasn't the best seamstress and maybe back then my fashion sense would probably have me on the worst dressed list in People magazine. However, that was my dream for about a month or two. While I didn't let that destroy me it hurt and the words that she spoke to me has stayed with me. I don't dwell on it and I didn't hold a grudge against her. I moved on.

I have encountered people like the both of them while in college. They have had a good and bad impact on me. I take it all in. I live by the saying that, "you can discourage me but you can't defeat me." As much as people may try intentionally and intentionally they don't get me down.

Teachers teach but amazing teachers educate students on lessons that will forever be cherished. I have a huge appreciation of teachers no matter what subjects, levels or types of students that they teach. Sometimes, teachers can be the first and last positive person that a child encounters. With that said, if you are a teacher or not, encourage rather than discourage. Help those in need. Don't turn your back on those who need you the most.