Fishtank Celebrates the Impact of Teachers

May 10, 2023

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! 

This year, we have been thinking about the many ways teachers have impacted our lives and our decision to pursue careers in education. We wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the teachers that have had the greatest impact on us and remind current teachers that, even if you don’t see it every day, you have the power to make a lasting, positive impact on each student you teach. 

Below, our team shared memories of some of the most impactful teachers we had growing up. 


Which of your K–12 teachers had the greatest impact on you and why?


Claire Kaplan, CEO: My senior year English teacher pushed my thinking and helped me improve my writing in ways that helped me be successful in college. The work was hard - one of the most rigorous classes I have ever taken. But his high standards and high expectations pushed us to do more than we thought we could do. He also made the texts we were reading meaningful. They were almost all canonical texts that were hard to get through, but he helped us understand their meaning and the broader themes and messages they conveyed. I still remember those books and the interpretations he helped us come to. 

If I could talk to him again, I’d love to engage with him about the choices we are making in our high school curriculum and his thoughts on the value of both canonical and more contemporary texts and topics in a HS ELA curriculum. 


Caroline Gambell, ELA Curriculum Director 6–8: My history teacher from 11th grade was fantastic. I give her credit for teaching me how to write -- I mean, really write. I still have the paper I wrote for her class on the history of Coney Island. 

We're actually still in touch and see one another at least once a year! So I would probably just ask how her kids are doing. 


Maureen Kavanaugh, ELA Curriculum Director 9–12: In high school, my favorite teacher was Ms. Frank. She was a young, smart, enthusiastic teacher that showed great love and passion not only for her subject matter, but also for her students. She showed me that teaching is first and foremost about relationships, and I carried that with me into my long career as an English teacher. 

If I could talk to her again, I’d say thank you for being an incredible role model for me at a time when I really needed one. 


Jasmine Johnson, ELA Curriculum and PL Associate 3–5: I don’t remember my teacher's name. I remember their warmth. We weren’t particularly close, but I hope she, a Black woman with a fade, will someday read this and understand the impact she had over my life. I was the child who disappeared in the wind. Who struggled to utter a word. Who cried alone. Then…She introduced me to Maya Angelou. Who then led me to Audre Lorde. Who led me to a voice so ferocious that I had to learn to recognize it myself. 

My favorite teachers are unnamed, but my spirit recognizes them. And every so often, I pick up a book, or I walk into a classroom, and I see them. I weep with gratitude.


Samantha Aponte, Director of ELA PL and Curriculum: My HS English Teacher encouraged us to always see the "other side" of a story. She taught us how to analyze texts and think about what parts of the story were being left out and why. She was the first teacher I ever had who talked about reading as a life skill, not just to pass a test. Most of the books we read in her class were books in translation which I thought was awesome. 

If I could talk to her again, I’d say thank you for starting me on this journey and strengthening my relationship with reading and literacy. 


Alliyah Gauthier, ELA Digital Content Associate: My 7th Grade English teacher, Mrs. Bradford, had such a significant impact on my life and career. She always inspired me to reach for the stars no matter what other people said or thought. She so deeply believed in my writing and what I could do in the future, that she never gave up on me, even when I didn't get things right the first time around. 

If I could talk to her again, I would tell her that she inspired me to go down the path of education and make a difference using my own individual talents. I would tell her that I am so thankful that she was there to lift me up when there were so many who didn't believe in me and my gifts. I would tell her that I am doing well and am beyond grateful to have had an amazing teacher like her!


Jami Therrien Wells, Managing Director of Math: One of my middle school math teachers introduced me to the math within origami and paper folding. It was the first time I really saw how math and art were so intricately related, and that has stayed with me to this day. 

If I could talk to her again, I would thank her for finding ways to make unique connections to the world in our math class. I would also tell her how I ended up studying modular origami in college and am now sharing this with my daughter. 


Sarah Britton, Math Curriculum Director K–5: My calculus teacher had an immense impact on me as a math student. He was one of the first math teachers I had who really explained the "why" behind the concepts and procedures we were studying. Prior to his class, many of my math teachers just told us how to solve a problem without always explaining the reasoning behind those methods. It resulted in a much deeper understanding and appreciation of calculus than any of the math classes I had taken prior. He also found the most wonderful applications of the concepts we were learning, which made math feel like a relevant, dynamic subject. I think it was largely thanks to him that I decided to pursue a degree in math in college. 

If I could talk to him again, I would thank him for setting my academic and professional life on a fulfilling, exciting, and wonderful course that otherwise never may have happened!


Faith McDuffie, Director of Math PL: Ms. Charles, my 5th grade math teacher, made math fun and interesting. Instead of math being just about procedures, she made math seem like a puzzle that needed to be solved. This meant that we persevered more because it wasn't just about getting the right answer, but more or less a purposeful solution.

If I could talk to her again, I would thank her for helping us believe we could be mathematicians, even though I didn't really know what that meant at 10.


Martin Hernandez, Math Digital Content Associate: My Algebra 2 teacher encouraged me to continue my education and to work with math. He was funny and sarcastic, and he is a big part of why I have always worked in the education field.

If I could talk to him again, I'd thank him for being so supportive and being someone in my corner. I'd also tell him how right he was that the math in college needed much more studying than it did in high school.


Jaselle Valdez, Product Manager: I joined a new elementary school during my 4th-grade year and my teacher, Ms. A was so welcoming. When I joined the class, I really enjoyed reading, writing, and involving myself in class discussions. Unfortunately, that led me to be picked on a bit and discouraged me from class participation. Thankfully, Ms. A noticed what was going on and brought me in for a 1:1 discussion. She encouraged me to be myself and not let others stop me from enjoying my studies. Having 1:1 time was very genuine and I still remember our talk to this day.

If I could talk to her again, I would say thank you! Because of her, I continued to enjoy reading and writing, and class presentations. I didn't let the fear of what others would think about me stop me from enjoying my studies. 


Ryan Maloney, Full Stack Developer: My 6th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Gow had the greatest impact on me as a student. I was not a good student (I was a class clown). Despite this, he showed patience and encouragement. 

If I could talk to him again, I would say “Mr. Gow, I really enjoyed your class. Sorry for being a piece of work!”


Chelsea Beatty, Director of Sales and Marketing: My high school band teacher, Mr. Abigana (or Mr. A as we called him), shared his deep love of music with a whole generation of students, and helped harness the interests and talents of all of the students who entered our band room. He was a great mentor for those of us who were seriously considering majoring in music or music education, and even helped me record my audition tapes for college. He really encouraged us to dream big about what life after high school could look like, from where we could live to what we could study.

I actually got to see Mr. A last summer at a music festival - 3,000 miles from my alma mater! I shared that I'm working with schools and teachers these days, and have an even greater appreciation for all of his work now. And although he is retired from teaching, he's found a new passion for learning and teaching others about wine tasting! 


Jessica Lamadieu, School Partnerships Manager: Overall, I would say many of the teachers at my middle school had a tremendous impact on me as a person and me as a student. Special shoutouts to my ELA, history, and technology teachers from that time period. But really they were all special.  I was a naturally smart child and, in my household, not doing well wasn't an option and so prior to middle school I just did extremely well in school because there was no other choice.  But my teachers in middle school, because they were so passionate about the subjects they taught, really inspired my love for learning and my desire to continue learning. Additionally they helped me develop a sense of confidence in my abilities.

If I could talk to them again, I would simply say thank you. As a former middle school teacher, I now know their job wasn't easy. But they made it look so effortless. I appreciate and am grateful for the care and attention they poured into me.


Rachel Fuhrman, Curriculum Marketing Manager: My 4th grade teacher Ms. Blackley was the first person that made me absolutely love reading and writing. She gave our class so much freedom to write about whatever we wanted, without the pressure of anyone ever reading it through daily journaling. That process made our academic writing so much easier! She also took the time to recommend books that she really thought I would enjoy and helped me understand how a good book can transport you anywhere in the world. 

If I could talk to her again, I would thank her for giving me the opportunity to express myself in writing and for teaching me how to find a book I could lose myself in. 

Thank you to all the teachers that have impacted us throughout the years! And–Thank you to every teacher in our Fishtank Learning community! We are honored to be able to support your work and know how lucky your students are to have someone like you on their side. We appreciate you and your hard work everyday, but especially today. 


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