Much has been written about who has the greatest influence in an adolescent’s life: their parents or their peers? Less talked about are teachers, who can also strongly influence pre-adolescents and adolescents.
Teachers shape how teenagers view themselves at a crucial time of identity development, a time in which teens figure out who they are and what they believe in—in comparison, or contrast—to their family and friends. At this time, a compliment or a criticism from a teacher can influence whether teens feel smart, valued, important and understood. Teachers help teenagers show their best sides of themselves.
In the best of cases, strong teachers can become an “in between” for teens. Teachers are not quite as close and powerful as parents; yet, they are more experienced and responsible than peers, so they may be in a good position to act as confidante to your teen.
Dr. Meghan Barlow is a Pediatric Psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic in the Center For Pediatric Behavioral Health.
In keeping with the role of teachers, we asked teens to share information about their favorite teachers.
Teens Reminisce About Favorite Teachers:
My third grade teacher was my favorite teacher. Mrs. Corell believed that I was capable of more than lower reading and math and worked with me practically every day after school to help me reach my full potential. Now, I am taking AP English and Honors Algebra II. She really got me on the right track.
Lauryn, Frankfort, KY
Everything changed in seventh grade with Mr. Attlegold, my history teacher, who made learning fun and interesting for me. He related what we did in class to the real world, and I never felt funny asking him for help if I didn’t understand something. He helped me realize the value of education, and I’m so thankful for all of his help and effort.
Matt, Westfield, IN
My physics teacher was so difficult, and my grades really suffered. When I asked my teacher to suggest a tutor, he insisted on tutoring me instead, free of charge. Realizing that he was willing to help me understand physics made me really appreciate him as a teacher.
Anna, W. VA
Mrs. Kelly was my fifth grade teacher, and the only one I’ve ever had who wasn’t afraid to take learning outside of the classroom. I learned a lot about fitness, life skills (such as stress management, organization, etc.), public speaking, and even how to balance a checkbook from her! She not only prepared me for middle school, but she got me ready for life!
Cameron, Chicago, IL
Mr. Larson saw each of us as individuals instead of just students. He encouraged us to do public service, read books or the newspaper or learn an instrument. That year, I explored who I am as a person. He instilled in me a thirst to learn. I now volunteer once a week with two local charities, read the newspaper every day, and have been playing the violin for four years.
Remy, Portland, OR
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Mary Argo at Sunview Elementary School. Mrs. Argo was a very thoughtful and caring teacher who loved every child. She understood everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and all the students felt successful. She would add humor throughout the day and thanked all of us for being her students.
Brian, Solon, OH
Mr. Cerquitella, my AP European history teacher, treated us like adults. He taught it like a professor would teach it. He was strict in that way, but he was also really nice and would joke around. He just wanted his students to do well.
Carly, Seattle, WA
Mr. Dean Shanower was my sophomore geometry teacher, and he was great. During my junior year, he helped me if I need help. He really cared about his students, and really went the extra mile. He gave up his free time to help me even when I wasn’t in his class. Sometimes he still stops me in the hallway just to ask me how I am doing.
Hannah, Warren, OH