“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” — Khalil Gibran

Great teachers inspire us, change us, make us want to be the best we can be. Tuesday, May 8, was National Teacher Appreciation Day, a day set aside annually to celebrate our teachers for all they do to improve the lives of our students.

Teachers have one of the largest impacts on a student’s learning. Research has shown a student in a high-impact teacher’s classroom has almost a year’s advantage over his or her peers in a lower-effect teacher’s classroom. This impact can last a lifetime.

A study in 2011 showed that “having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime – or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class. Study after study shows that attracting and retaining quality teachers is worth the investment.

Highly capable teachers have the ability to change a student’s life in many ways. The great teacher instills a joy of learning, and a thirst for knowledge that we want our children to have and never lose. Quality teachers not only raise the test scores, but forge strong relationships, teaching important life lessons while improving their students’ critical skills and subject knowledge.

My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Gold, had an enormous influence over me. She instilled in me that determination is the key to success. Being in the Christmas play was something that terrified me, but with her coaching I transformed into the best wind-up doll that I could be. Years later when I became a teacher, I thought of her often. Even with her being thousands of miles away, she was my model, my mentor, the teacher I aspired to be like for my students.

Although we know parents have the greatest impact on what a child learns, good teachers will also make significant contributions on many students over the course of their careers.

RSU 5 is fortunate to have many inspiring teachers. Diane Whitmore, our Latin and French teacher, will be retiring at the end of this year. She has been an inspiration to so many. Not only does she teach world language, but she plays in the band frequently and is the senior class advisor. She attends almost every high school event, whether it’s a musical performance, an athletic game, or an awards ceremony. She will be leading the musicians during our grand opening of the track and field on May 18. The joy of learning is clearly evident in her teaching as she has been voted by the kids as most spirited teacher more than once. Her departure will leave large shoes to fill.

During this month of teacher appreciation, we celebrate and thank Ms. Whitmore and others like her who have made a difference in the lives of our children.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected].