As a teacher, you hope that your students will continue on to find success of their own one day.
Here, proud teachers share stories from their most successful students.
1. Some people are just naturals.
My high school Algebra teacher taught the guy who co-founded Instagram. Apparently he was the kind of student who walked in on a test day, said “oh, there’s a test?”, and then proceeded to ace the test.
2. That’s a pretty decent reaction, actually.
My uncle was Steven King’s English teacher in high school. My uncle tells a pretty funny story about him.
One teacher would get assigned to a lunch period and look after the students during lunch to make sure that nothing went down down. Well one day a huge food fight broke out, and some kid threw a half eaten apple at Steven King hitting him right in the head. Steven King picked it up off the ground looked at it and then started eating it while reading a book.
3. Too smart for his own good.
I am a history teacher in Germany and I got a student who is Turkish.
I mean the mixture of a gentleman and a whizkid is amazing. But the sad point was when I wanted to get to know his dad. Just to praise him how wonderful his son is. The classroom teacher told me that he is now under the care of the youth welfare service because he got abused by his family. I could not believe that why should a father beat such a wonderful kid. The answer was that the father just could not cope with his questions anymore and felt to be inferior than his son. It makes me so sad that he is now living far away from his parents and still manages to be a happy and wonderful person.
I would immediately adopt him. But it is quite hard to adopt a kid as a single person. Hopefully I can mentor and support him for the rest of his life.
4. As long as you’re a hard worker, you’ll be fine.
I had a student who’d flunked algebra 6 times before he got to me. I offered him all the help he wanted and he took it — showed up to office hours, asked for extra time, asked tons of questions. I think some people’s brains just can’t do algebra the way it’s intended to be done, but he was able to memorize enough tricks and basic logic to pass with a D.
I ran into him years later working for the TSA. Glad I was able to help him get a college degree 🙂 Out of all the students I had, many of whom were more intellectually gifted, he worked the hardest for it. That sort of perseverance and determination has got to have served him well.
5. Very nice.
Had a student my first year teaching, loved art, cranked out good work and soaked everything like a sponge. She was only a student my 1st year and never again, but was in my room everyday to learn as much as she could while in high school.
We’re still in touch, work in my studio together from time to time, and we show work together and do expos often. I prefer showing work with her over any of my colleagues. She’s taking a semester off to beef up her portfolio to have the best shot at Master’s of Fine Arts program of her choice.
Now she’s the one encouraging me to get more of an education.
What makes her successful in my opinion is her acceptance that failure is an inevitability and an opportunity to learn what to do or not do. She has the drive to always do better, and is very aware that she doesn’t know everything.
It doesn’t hurt that she’s definitely not lazy and is very humble about her skillset.
Most kids now have a sense of undeserved entitlement or give up before they try because they might fail… or just don’t care because they refuse to work for anything. It’s too much effort for a lot of kids to read a whiteboard. I wish I was kidding.
6. Sometimes people end up creating something that ends up in every home.
One of my students ended up being one of the key figures for Microsoft in the creation of the Xbox. So that’s pretty cool.
7. Just when you think you’re out…
I was an instructor in the military. My best student is the one that separated from the service, and became a lawyer. The military has a way of lulling people into a career, I’m walking proof of this, and it’s rare to see someone separate and make a successful transition like this. It might be due to the fact that we were enlisted–I’m sure that officers have an easier transition because of their education background–but it was great to see this enlisted guy go from being a regular NCO to a big shot lawyer on the east coast.
Lots of people talk about their “big goals” when the separate from the service, but he was one of the few that actually did what he said he was going to do. And for that, I think he’s successful.
8. Wait, no tell THAT story!!
As a teacher, I think that you are imagining a different kind of student from the one I am imagining. For us, the most successful students are kids who come from unstable, unsupportive families, and still make it through college to live the American Dream with a normal, stable, middle-class life in a job that helps people in their community. The kids that go on to be doctors and professors and lawyers and politicians that come from privileged families, that’s great and everything, but it’s just to be expected.
Now I could lie and tell you all about this homeless student I have that became an astronaut, but I’m not going to do that. I just want you to understand that we teachers think about success in relative terms when it comes to students, because it’s about how much of a mountain they had to climb, not how high their final destination was.
9. Nicely done!
That is, I’m not a teacher, however this is about a friend, who was in all my classes.
I live in the UK, so for the last two years of compulsory school, it’s common to study A-levels, the equivalent of graduating from high school in the USA (assuming that you graduate at 18). Normally, people do 3 A-levels, and it’s common to start 4 (you get a qualification from the first year, and the full thing from the second).
At my school, there were a group of us who started 5 A-levels, myself and him included, however most of us only did 4 for the second year, and some only 3. He continued with all 5. That might not sound like much, but 3 keeps you busy enough for it to be considered full time education. And then there’s the subjects themselves- he was studying maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and biology. I’m pretty sure that he had no time to socialise whatsoever, but that’s not all.
A couple of years before us, two students achieved 4 A* grades (the highest possible) at A-level, in the same subjects except biology, and this was the first time that anyone had managed it. He got 5 A*s, with almost full marks in all his exams. So academically, I guess he’s the most successful student I’ve seen.
Oh, and he’s now studying medicine at Oxford.
10. It’s always a Charlie, isn’t it?
Every week in the local library, one of the librarians and I run a class to teach people (mostly people in their fifties upwards) the basics of using a computer- from what a mouse does, to sending Emails, and how to not get a virus when you surf the web. We started out in late 2009 with about half a dozen people, and by far the oldest of the group was Charlie, who was 84 years old. Despite his age, he was fit as a fiddle and very talkative.
When Charlie came in, he knew what the keyboard did, but didn’t know how to turn the PC on. The symbols meant nothing to him. Basic concepts such as the windows Start Menu were alien.
We do lessons based on a rotating list, each lesson officially lasting 30 mins, but usually with an extra 30 so everyone is roughly on the same page each week. Charlie was in for an hour each week. We get to the last lesson, and he seems much less afraid of a computer now. Our first graduation walks out the door, and the next week sees a flurry of typed thank-you letters arrive at the library. The librarians tickled pink, and she pins them up on the door of the computer room we’ve been using.
Charlie however had gone one better, as apparently his granddaughter had given him a digital camera. He was very keen on nature, and his letter contained pictures that he had edited and cropped himself, something we didn’t even touch on in the lessons. He’d Googled how to do this stuff, and its that spirit that made me think of him.
11. JGL are you serious!!!!
My mom was Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s 1st grade teacher.
12. I mean, how did I not think of that?
I’m not a teacher, but a kid in my business class made these waterproof backpacks. At first they started off as a trend for the local students. However, by the end of the semester he got contracted by the military.
13. Hard way to make a living, though.
I’ve had doctors, lawyers, airline pilots, professors, and teachers come out of my classes, along with hundreds of other careers and fulfilling and successful life choices, but I think the greatest success was a kid who didn’t want to live, who made tried to end their life while I was their teacher, who is now a happily married parent and a mortician for a nationally known military cemetery and mausoleum.
This kid made me as happy as could be when they told me about life since high school.
14. Oh dang, that’s a get!
My science teacher taught Big Sean, who even wrote a rap for my teacher.
15. Well, that turned out better than expected…
When I taught high school, I had a particularly bright student. He came back to me a year later and told me he dropped out of college and didn’t intend to return. He mentioned that maybe he just wasn’t the college type, which was particularly disappointing because he was the kind of person who really could do anything he wanted if he tried.
Told him about my own college experience. I flunked out freshman year and it took me 6 years to get through undergrad. Then I requested that he think long and hard about if he’s not the college type or if he’s just maybe not ready yet. I then got him a job as a cargo handler at the airport (I put myself through college working there).
A few years later, when I was talking to a friend who still works in cargo, I found out the kid eventually… A few years later, when I was talking to a friend who still works in cargo, I found out the kid eventually went back to school, then started a freight forwarding business which was crazy successful and got bought out by Expeditors, he used the buy out money to take 2 years off from work and go get his MBA.
I’ve never heard since, but for some reason that one always stuck with me and his story is one of my favorite memories from my time teaching high school.
16. That’s the top level, bro!
Most of my former students have gone on to the type of jobs you’d expect from a wide range of people. But one of my former students was dating a guy who went on to be in the NFL (Alfonzo Dennard, cornerback for the New England Patriots.)
He was a nice kid. Shy for a rippling mass of muscles.
17. Well, I’m sure there was some other important stuff.
One of my former biology students is the 2nd fastest 800m runner nationally at the high school level. I taught him… not a thing about running.
18. Super well done!
I used to teach sewing. In one of my beginner classes, this girl came in with no experience of sewing or crafting but picked it up extremely fast. After I showed the class how to insert a zipper, she came back the next week with a completed (to perfection) A-line skirt . . . a skirt was supposed to be the final project and that was still another 4 weeks off.
For the final she made this gorgeous silk charmeuse, plaid skirt (with matching stripes) that was high waisted and fully lined for her vow renewal. Some impressive crap, man.
19. Oh, how things have changed…
I know my dad was Rick Santorum’s political science teacher in college. The weird thing is my dad says that Santorum came up to him after class once and asked if he wanted to do do well in Pennsylvania politics which party to join and my dad said that the Republican party had less serious candidates (Maybe my father created a monster, haha). But my dad says that Santorum seemed very centrist, almost liberal leaning back then.
Psychology professor here. In my early years of teaching I had this student who was always late to class and in submitting papers. However, her papers were all excellent – very professional in nature, something that a person with masters in psych could have written.
If I can remember correctly I was teaching Social Psych and she was a second year. She portrayed a deep interest in various social theories and wrote a beautiful paper on Mass Hysteria. This was a time when google did not exist.
I later learned that while she was studying under my tutelage. She was working as a part time janitor at the engineering building to support herself. Good kid. Also very humble. She now has a doctorate in Clinical Psych and practices in London.
21. No doubt about my boy, Dwayne.
My 8th grade teacher coached The Rock in football. Said he was a hell of a hard worker. Doesn’t surprise me.
22. Sounds like she has a bright future!
I’m a professor at a public university and my most successful student received the Marshall scholarship, is currently having her college paid for in England (by the crown), and was an amazing student in my class.
23. Go get ’em!
I had a student that took the same public exam that I did to become a State’s attorney. He passed and I didn’t (now he is making more money than I do). Very intelligent and applied student. We corrected our tests and he got more right answers on the subjects that I don’t teach and almost matched my score on the subjects that I teach.
He studied a lot and gave me hell in class, always reading the book before class started and asking deep questions to take as much as he could from the classes. He was so good that once I l let him draft by himself a writ of habeas corpus for me and I almost didn’t make any correction.
The best part is that I sued the State for a client and he is the lawyer defending it and I’m the one giving him hell now. He almost called me professor in one hearing.
24. Choir choir choir!!!!!
My dad was a middle school choir teacher for some 30 odd years. He always loved blasting the current pop music so you could hear it clear down the hall (especially the Backstreet Boys) and forcing students to sing along into a microphone so they could hear their own voices and get over the embarrassment of singing in front of each other.
Well, one of these students is now the bass singer in a fairly successful acapella group. To top it off the former student also openly credits my dad with his success and says he never would have even tried or thought he had a good voice if my dad had not forced him to sing into that microphone in his school years.
25. You got a bad attitude, mister!
My first teaching job was at a school for students that had been kicked out of every school they had been to. This was their last chance, but that didn’t make a difference to their attitude. Chairs were thrown, weapons were bought to school and the teachers were constantly insulted and disrespected.
I managed to develop a good relationship with most of them (actually I found the naughty kids quite funny, but the lazy ones I hated), but one of them really stood out. He had potential if he only got his crap together. After a while I realized this kid couldn’t read or write passed a 6 year old standard (after a while cos trying to get one of these kids to put pen to paper was almost impossible). So he felt useless in class and I assume that’s why he always acted up, as a way to divert attention from this problem.
I took him aside and said I will help him if he lets me. He burst into tears, saying he wanted to make something of himself.
From that moment, the kid that was impossible to deal with, who was just a general crap storm in class gave up every lunch and break time he had so we could do reading and writing exercises.
After the summer break I came back to the school and asked ‘where is x’ and I was told he got into college (UK A levels). And that’s the last I heard of him.
Where is he now? I have no idea but I hope he kept up that motivation and is somewhere good now. It pisses me off how so many schools and teachers wrote off this kid without even considering trying to work out how this guys needed help.
26. That’s a win right there.
Kid had one parent, who had lupus. Was rarely in clean clothes. I bought him breakfast at times or he wouldn’t have eaten. He was frequently threatened with expulsion. He finished high school and is now in permanent full time employment.
27. Ah, one of THOSE people…
You know how some people get the everything package? I taught one of those guys in year 12. Straight As in EVERY subject, won the state competition for ancient languages when he wrote a play in freaking Latin, was great at sports, tall, good looking, had a full beard at 18 I can’t grow at 28 and was well liked by everyone. And from the stories I heard he was quite a good drinker as well (don’t worry, I teach in Bavaria so no illegal stuff going on). Last time I talked to him he didn’t know what he wanted to do but he said he considered medicine or something technical. Whatever he does, I am sure he will succeed.
28. Ivy league and then the hotel lobby! Wait… that’s not how that goes…
One of my high school students whose college recommendations I wrote was admitted to the University of Pennsylvania. All she’s done there so far is attend freshman orientation (for this fall), but hey, I helped a kid get into the Ivy League!
29. More like Latin and Geek!!! Ha.
I am a Latin and Ancient Greek teacher, and I’m so proud that one of my students is about to start a PhD in a subject I taught her! I’ve only been teaching 7 years and it is a real thrill.
30. Sounds like you were very lucky!
My students who did the best and stay in contact include community activists, successful business owners, corporate movers, and creative talents plying their trade skills all over the inter webs. Other equally successful stories they tell including having children as single parents, glbt parents, and loving cis parents. A few have gone into politics as elected officials. Some are coming to terms with re-entry stuff after serving lengthy tours over the past ten years.
Mostly, I see a common thread of grace, humility, courage, and genuine concern for others in the face of often negative energy pushing back.
The former students are, taken as a group, a truly amazing slice of their generation(s).
31. I’m sure Tupac was super nice, actually.
My old art teacher knew Tupac. He was in some dance program or something and she was a photographer. She said he was actually a pretty nice kid.