I Still Use the Lessons This Teacher Taught Me

(Photo by Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash)

Commentary, Marcos Lopez

Despite my lifelong skepticism towards the confines of classroom walls, I can attest that one teacher led me to find joy in learning. Ms. Maguire, my 12th-grade English teacher at Pittsburg High School, profoundly impacted my educational journey. Through her teaching methods and unwavering belief in students’ potential, she not only ignited an interest in learning but also encouraged me to express myself through literature, even when I failed to see potential in myself.

​Throughout my academic journey, I never saw myself as an exemplary student. My hyperactivity often turned school into more of a social hour than a learning environment. Unlike my previous teachers, who seemed indifferent to my academic success, Ms. Maguire stood out. Her approach to teaching emphasized one-on-one learning and provided detailed feedback on our writing assignments, demonstrating a genuine concern for our academic progress. When my hyperactive nature showed in her class, her response was patient. Where other teachers might have sent me out of the room, she saw an opportunity for engagement. She sat me in the front row, directly involving me in the learning process. Although I wasn’t too pleased sitting in the front, over time, it improved my focus and made me significantly more engaged in the class.

​Though my approach to learning was evolving, I still struggled with turning in papers on time, often submitting them late or producing mediocre work. This habit was negatively impacting my grades. At that time, my aspirations for college were minimal, and I believed that merely passing Ms. Maguire’s class would suffice. However, she quickly noticed my lack in performance and, instead of reprimanding me, offered me the opportunity to resubmit my papers for a higher score. Her actions showed a genuine interest in my success, going beyond mere academic achievement.

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Moreover, as the time approached to learn about college applications, Ms. Maguire recognized that not all of us were planning to pursue higher education. In response, she adapted her lessons to include guidance on job applications and writing cover letters. This thoughtful consideration showed her commitment to equipping us with practical skills for the future, regardless of the path we chose.

​Eight years have passed since my high school days, but the lessons from Ms. Maguire’s English class still resonate with me — even if I couldn’t see the value at the time. After graduating, I did end up attending community college for two semesters, where I chose an English course. More than just influencing my academic choices, her teachings have also been a guiding light in how I approach job applications. The skills in writing and critical thinking she instilled in her students have been invaluable, helping me stand out in the job market. Whether it was drafting a compelling cover letter or articulating my thoughts clearly in interviews, I found myself drawing on the lessons from her class.

​Looking back, Ms. Maguire didn’t just prepare us for furthering our education, she equipped us for life beyond school. Her class influenced my approach to learning, working and engaging with the world around me. As I navigate challenges and opportunities in life, I carry with me the skills I developed in her class. It’s my hope that others are as fortunate as I have been to experience the transformative power of good teachers like Ms. Maguire, who not only educate but also inspire and believe in the potential of every student.

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