A Teacher’s Chance to Transform Lives

A student’s view on the impact teachers can have


Photo by Ava Bidner

Teachers travel to schools all over St. Louis everyday, most with the intention of making an influential change in the lives of their students and others with an uncaring attitude, passing up their chance to make an impact.

Whether they make it obvious or not, students genuinely care about their teachers and the methods in which they are taught. The words, grades, attitudes, and even expressions teachers both intentionally and unintentionally give to their students can stick in their minds for the rest of their lives. That being said, teachers should be aware they have been given a critical role in the lives of easily-influenced kids and can not afford to waste such a substantial opportunity.

Teachers need to not only have knowledge and be able to communicate information to their students, but they also need to genuinely have passion for what they are teaching. Mrs. Jennifer Boylan, a sophomore honors algebra 2 teacher at Westminster, said her own high school teachers are her role models.

“Knowledge is only as important as passion for the subject a teacher is teaching. I think this passion rubs off on students as well,” said Boylan.

While understanding the material is essential to both the teacher’s and students’ success, there must also be a desire by both people to invest in the learning. Without this, the students are likely to walk through the class, learn the required concepts for the test, and then forget it all soon after the final, resulting in a major waste of time.

Secondly, teachers should genuinely care if their students understand the subject and should be willing to give extra time and energy to help each student understand. Many successful teachers are willing to go above and beyond in order to connect with their students on a personal level.

“A good teacher cares if students learn and understand the material and will take the extra steps to make sure that can happen. I think at WCA it is important that we take it one step further and really care about the students and what’s going on in their lives,” said Boylan.

Students pay attention to teachers who do not wave them away when the bell rings; they look for teachers who see them as more than just a grade. When a student feels important in the eyes of a teacher, they often begin to open up and engage fully in the class, making the experience better for both themselves and their teachers.

Additionally, an enthusiastic and organized teacher paves the way to a strong relationship and a successful (and enjoyable) year for the students.

“A good teacher is someone who can form a strong, supportive bond with their student. He/She is someone who is enthusiastic about their job and is caring, encouraging, and available to their student. They offer good feedback and word it in a way to make the student feel appreciated, heard, and understood,” said Journee Henry, sophomore.

Teachers should be encouraged to engage their class as much as possible, but high school students are concerned about their grades, as they know they will undoubtedly affect them for the next several years as they apply to colleges and jobs. By high school, the majority of students are taking every class seriously, so teachers must realize this and treat the class seriously, too.  

Teachers who can somehow perfectly swirl together creative learning activities, humor, and papers and tests that stretch their students’ abilities but also allow them to succeed are the ones students will still be talking about years later.

Teachers also need to stay away from the other extreme of intimidating their students at the beginning of the year. This is a tactic used by teachers from college all the way down to preschool, and it automatically causes a rift between both people for the rest of the year.

Lastly, most students like to be known not only by name but also in such a way that the teacher can best help them in whatever area necessary.

“Mrs. Vogel made me come out of my shell and made me more social all the way back in 6th grade when I first moved to Missouri, so she’s been super impactful and influential to me,” said Henry.

Mrs. Lizzie Vogel, a Westminster art teacher, forms personal relationships with each student, allowing her to identify their specific needs. Interested in every kid’s life, Mrs. Vogel believes every student has potential, both in art and life. A teacher who can help kids open up and share in class can help them succeed later in life, as they take on problems that require them to not only know their identity but also know their worth and capability.

Teachers may not recognize the position they have been given, but their role in the lives of kids can be equally as important as that of a friend, counselor, pastor, or even parent, depending on the situation. Many teachers realize the profound impact they have in their students’ lives, but they may not realize how wide their impact truly is.

A private school teacher teaches an average of five classes a day, each with about 20 students. This means that over a period of 30 years, the average number of years most teachers work before retiring, teachers will have approximately 3,000 students in their lives. That is 3,000 lives to change and 3,000 chances to make a difference.