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Education World is pleased to present this article contributed by Shannon Dauphin Lee, a Schools. If you were asked to name the teacher who made a significant difference in your life, chances are you could immediately come up with a name—and if you were very lucky during your school years, you could come up with more than one. What was it that made those teachers stand out? Was it something they did, perhaps a way of teaching that was unique and engaging? Was it something they said, maybe something that struck a chord?
Or was it simply that they paid attention in a way that other teachers didn’t? For Margaret Miller, a writer and editor at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, it was all of those things that endeared teacher Annie Dillard. Annie Dillard was my writing instructor at Hollins College the year she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. That one class changed the course of Miller’s life.
Engaged by Annie’s complete devotion to writing and her belief in me, I changed my major from music to English, went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts and became a teacher and professional writer myself. Juan Maria Solare, a renowned Argentine composer and pianist living in Germany, was also lucky to have had an exceptional teacher. These teachers are just a few of the many who have made a difference. By embracing the educational experience in a unique and passionate way, these educators offered students much more than a curriculum. They became involved in their lives, helped them chart their dreams and then gave them the skills and confidence they needed to reach them. When aspiring teachers are asked why they want to teach, the most common answer is that they want to make a difference in the lives of students, according to an essay on the five attitudes of effective teachers.