Bastardi is inspired by her high school physics teacher, Ms. Kelly, who gave her the confidence to major in mechanical engineering at one of the top schools in the country, Rochester Institute of Technology.
"She was awesome at showing examples of these theoretical calculations. She was always launching stuff across the room." Bastardi, an instructor at Curious on Hudson, an enrichment program in upstate New York that exposes kids to science and engineering, now helps her students build their own catapults and rockets.
Agarwal's most inspirational teacher taught his high school math class in India. "He would yell and scream and curse students," says Agarwal, an electrical engineering and computer science professor at MIT. He is also the CEO of the Massive Open Online Course platform edX.
For advanced students, the teacher gave out special problems and instructed them to go think. "He really helped me learn how to challenge students," Agarwal says.
Mr. Bua only taught Malamed one elective at his suburban New York middle school, but that didn't matter. "He was someone who was there to support me and my interests outside of the classroom," Malamed says. "He inspired me to be much more than just a student."
Malamed remembers Bua staying after school and spending time working on a big social awareness project. "He helped me begin to find relevance and purpose in my learning experience."
Malamed still keeps in touch with Bua, but if he had to write his teacher a note now, it would say: "Thank you, Mr. Bua. Your belief in me made me believe in myself."
We asked conference attendees to write us a note about their great teachers.
"Thank you, Mrs. Timberlake, for teaching me to write with passion and conviction! You elevated my voice! Warmly, Jacqueline Nader"
"Great teaching is: Finding the pathway in each student to help them to express their own deep-seated intelligence and then push it beyond their expectations. Rosanne Somerson, Rhode Island School of Design president."
"To Bob Cosgrove – Thanks for teaching me to get off the subject and ask the question that hasn't been asked. Sandy Merz"
"Mr. Ford, thanks for believing 17 year old high school girls have political opinions worth hearing."
"My most memorable, inspiring teacher was Mrs. Payne. She was my 6th grade ELA teacher who convinced me that I was able and expected to succeed. I became a special honor roll student that year. She's a favorite memory of mine still today." - Mississippi teacher Darla Miller
"Thank you Dr. Edwin Gordon. Teaching the power of music education and being such a role model and mentor to your students including me! Best, Darla Hanley"
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Tell us stories about the great teachers you've known, the ones you think ought to make our list. We'll read these stories over and pull some out to share.