Encouraging. Resourceful. Compassionate. Committed. These are just a few of the words that came up when I asked some of my USGBC colleagues about their favorite teachers. Whether teaching us about systems thinking or climate change, honing our leadership skills or celebrating our successes, the impacts that teachers have on their students is profound.
Did a teacher make an impact on you that led you to where you are today in your “green career”? Maybe it was a science teacher who opened your eyes to climate change, or a civics class where you learned about the roots of the environmental movement. Perhaps a professor mentored you to set your sights on a career where you could put technical expertise to work for social good, or maybe your kid has a teacher who goes out of their way to introduce students or their peers to sustainability practices.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, USGBC is proud to share a few stories about the teachers that have made—and continue to make—an impression on us.
- Steph Leonard, of USGBC Minnesota, learned about compassion and empathy from her fifth and sixth grade teacher. “In my career, community organizing, relationships are key. One of the people who has shown me the most compassion—which is crucial in building strong relationships—is Ms. Kelly Saliin (now Kelly Tirpack), now a dear friend. I remember creating newspapers in social studies class, leadership lessons and Poetry Friday. But what I remember most is feeling like Kelly always (and to this day) had my best interests at heart and truly cared for me and about me. When I think of mentors and teachers in my life, I always recall the way Ms. Saliin set an example for truly caring about others, the students she was molding and the community she worked within. Those values have stayed with me throughout my career. They are values I use to help build community in my life around the people, places and issues that I love."
- Cecilia Shutters, Data and Policy Communications Specialist, remembers the encouragement she received from her second grade teacher at Richmond Hill Primary School, in Bryan County, Ga. “Mrs. Grant allowed me to do an ad-hoc presentation about recycling and littering, to ask my fellow students to pledge to do more recycling and litter pick-up at home. She reached out to the local paper and invited them to cover this as a story. Her support and attention at an early age let me see that advocacy can happen at any level and it is OK to speak up and ask people around you to listen, pay attention and act to do something about a problem.”
- Jenny Wiedower, with the Center for Green Schools, learned to incorporate creativity into problem solving from her elementary school art teacher. “Susan Purvis saw the creativity inside every one of her students, and she challenged us to better understand life through art. Once, during a pen-and-ink drawing activity, I messed up and made the subject of my portrait cross-eyed. Rather than scrap my work and start over, Mrs. Purvis encouraged me to think about how I could embrace the mistake. I drew a fly on the nose of my subject, and later learned that Mrs. Purvis had submitted my final portrait to a statewide art competition, in which it received the first place prize for my grade. Our school district and the thousands of students, parents and fellow staff whose lives she touched are better because she was our teacher.”
Join us in celebrating the teachers who have made an impact on you and your career by sharing a line or two with a special shout-out to their good work. Share what you remember fondly about them in the comments, or by using #ThankATeacher.