Ode to Teachers

This is the essay that got me a half scholarship to a Leadership Program in Australia. 🙂

Morning sunlight streamed in through the slanted windowpanes, bathing the classroom in a soft golden hue. Shuffling in with half-closed eyes, my classmates and I took down the chairs and rummaged for pencils and notebooks. Suddenly, the door flung open, and in came my 5th grade teacher, Mr.Rackowitz. As always, he greeted us all with those crinkled eyes and that wide smile which creased his face with lines. He stood silently for a moment, hands politely in front of him, with jet-black hair damp and square glasses perched lightly on his nose. It rose and fell as he talked.

“Good morning everyone!”

“Morning…” we yawned in reply.

“Has anyone brought more cans for the food drive?” he asked, motioning at the cardboard box in the corner of the room, half-filled with chicken soup, sardine, and preserved fruit cans for donation. A few people nodded. He continued, “Great. Now we’ll start by watching the TIMES News, and then continue the lesson on long division.”

Thus began another day. Although unextraordinary at the surface, it was during that year in 5th grade that I became who I am today. In that classroom, Mr.Rackowitz never taught us textbook fluff. Instead, he showed us the beauty of knowledge. In math, he challenged us with riddles, and showed us how the patterns of geometry, algebra, and everything in between correlated with nature. For English, he read aloud stories and poems, bringing alive the world of rhyme, meter, and metaphors—enabling us to read between the lines as we analyzed the text. For history, we would perform skits and actively engage in discussions and debates.

However, the most important thing I learned from him was about good character. I remember how he once told us that we were living in a bubble, because we were experiencing things others could only imagine. I remember when he told us about a man in Africa who would force kids our age to kill their own family. I went home that day with shame, but also, with a vow to myself that I would be more grateful.

Furthermore, he taught us the meaning of philanthropy, and the importance of respect—of course, by being so himself. By showing us videos of kids our own age who had done incredible things, like starting a business,  building a robot, or giving teddy bears to hospitalized kids, he showed us that nothing was impossible. In fact, he inspired us so much that one day my friends and I decided to make an organization called Kids For Kids, in which we held bake sales and donated the money to charity.

For me and my classmates, Mr.Rackowitz wasn’t only a teacher. He was a role model for us to look up to; he was a leader whose dedication and love for his work permeated everything he did. Perhaps you don’t have to change the world to be a leader. By influencing just one person’s life for the better, you’ve already done something spectacular.

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