Canadians share powerful stories of teachers who made lasting impressions

Across Canada, Global News readers share stories of their favourite teachers from over the years.
Across Canada, Global News readers share stories of their favourite teachers from over the years. Getty Images

We’ve all had teachers who we can firmly say have changed our lives.

It’s the educators who spent hours not only in the classroom, but off hours shaping our thoughts, ideas and impressions of the world, and often, ourselves.

In August, Global News asked Canadians to share stories about their favourite teachers; not only the people who were good at their jobs but the educators who went above and beyond for students inside and outside the classroom.

READ MORE: Almost 30 years ago, a teacher saved this B.C. woman’s life. Today, she can thank him

And while one of these stories included former-student-turned-teacher Jackie Norman of Burnaby, B.C., reconnecting with her former teacher Fred Worsfold of Smiths Fall, Ont., we received over 100 responses from Global News readers across the country.

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WATCH: B.C. woman thanks teacher for saving her life 30 years ago
B.C. woman thanks teacher for saving her life 30 years ago
B.C. woman thanks teacher for saving her life 30 years ago

Below are some highlights of other great teachers. Want to share a teacher that changed your life? Leave us your story in the comments below.

“Mr. Haggerty of Ponoka Secondary Campus [in Ponoka, Alta.] is quite possibly the greatest teacher of all time. I remember being in high school, ‘too cool’ for the cooking class that was taught by Mr. Haggerty, who also happened to be my English teacher.
“[He] was the only reason I joined the cooking class, and it was the most incredible class I ever took. He inspired a lifelong passion for good food and good travels, inspiring me to try new things from different corners of the world. I am grateful.” — Austin Lutz
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“Mr. Simpson of Jasper Place Composite High in Edmonton. He went on to become the principal. He was the first ‘cool’ scientist I ever saw. He made me realize that it’s all right to care about people, hobbies, and whatever else.

“Every time he had something important [to teach us], he would put a star then say, ‘They teach us in university that adding a star to some batch of notes will make students focus on it.’ Kids that were late or didn’t do homework weren’t accosted. You had an option. If you’re going to be late without an excuse, you can do pushups. Not physically inclined? You can sing a song in front of the class. Same thing for homework.” — David Robinson

READ MORE: ‘I am blessed to love what I do’: Kirkland teacher recognized by PMO for excellence in teaching

“Mrs. Jensen was my high school biology teacher. Coming from a small town, teachers did a lot to support the students, but Mrs. Jensen really did go above and beyond. Not only did she teach but she also worked closely with me on student council, which was really how I got to know her.

“I had lost my mother when I was 14, which sometimes left me scrambling when I needed that maternal figure. Mrs. Jensen always had my back, offering life advice and helping me plan my future. She even taught me how to walk in heels one day after school before I had a big scholarship interview.” — Meghan Martin

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“My Grade 6 teacher, Ms. Speis. She read us The Hobbit every day for an hour and turned me into one of Canada’s most prolific writers. I ended up writing my first book in her class. My poetry was published by the University of British Columbia and I have been read by millions of people.” — Alan Poole

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“My life-changing teacher moment was in Grade 5. My teacher, Ms. Ness at Ron Brent Elementary in [Prince George, B.C.] is the reason I am who I am. She is the reason I no longer have a speech impediment. She noticed it and made sure that twice a week I was able to be pulled out of classes for speech therapy. This became the reason I felt comfortable public speaking and being in front of a classroom.” — Melissa Paakkonen

“My high school teacher, Mr. Ryback [of Ontario], believed in me when many others did not. I am hard of hearing, profoundly deaf in both ears, which made communication difficult for me. It was in the early ‘80s and there was still a mentality that special needs kids belonged in separate schools. With Mr. Ryback’s mentoring, I ended up graduating at the top of my class and going on to studying engineering. I have now been a professional engineer for 21 years. Mr. Ryback was a major influence in my life and I will always appreciate having known him.” — Bonnie Murphy

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“My teacher was Mrs. Haywood. I was living in a world of pain and abuse. Terrified to do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing. She was my light at the end of a very dark tunnel. I couldn’t wait to get to school to see her smiling face and feel her kindness. She’s one of the reasons I knew as a child that not all people were bad. There was kindness out there, I found it in her.” — Paulette Raymond

“Ms. Brown [now Mrs. Helfrich], was my English teacher in Grade 11 at Crescent Heights High School in Medicine Hat, Alta. She was full of enthusiasm and dedication to her students. The curriculum dictated that the class read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, which happened to be my favourite book. When Ms. Brown found out it was my favourite book, she sat me down and asked if I wanted to read it again in class, or if I would prefer to do a private study of a different book.

“Having a teacher recognize my thirst for knowledge and willingness to do extra work to let me expand beyond the set curriculum was incredible. She researched books with similar themes as Fried Green Tomatoes, and together we picked A Thousand Splendid Suns for me to read. She was the first teacher to really encourage my feminist views. She also took time out of her private life to chaperone my attendance at a conference for students hosted by the Alberta Education Minister. Since leaving school, I have kept in touch with her, I attended her wedding and she attended mine, and we have been references for each other. I can’t thank her enough for helping me to become the woman I am today.” — Elizabeth Strange

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READ MORE: Is there a Canadian teacher who changed your life? Tell us about them 

“My father left when I was a baby and throughout elementary school, my actions would quickly escalate from a small problem to constant issues. In Grade 7 I met Mr. Coneilesse [and] something kicked in and made me realize no one will hold doors open for you forever. Mr. C took me under his wing and with a few private conversations, he knew all my problems and was like in a way a father figure. He told me to get my stuff together and stand tall and I’ll do great things, as a result I won athlete of the year in my graduating year of elementary school.” — Damion H

“I was 13 years old. My ego and self-worth were near zero when I started in Grade 8, but a fresh group of kids who knew nothing of my past gave me a true fresh start. But more than anyone else was a teacher’s aid named Mr. Pittman. I never had him as a direct teacher, but overhearing him talk about his interest in model railroading sparked curiosity in me. He invited me to attend the weekly club meetings and fought for my membership against other members who didn’t want a kid around.

“I never did become a member. But what I had gained was that I was worth an adult fighting for. This single act, transformed my life, giving me the confidence to be who I want to be — to be who I am. While he did not teach me in the classroom, he taught me the value of people, the power of consideration and the need to step up when the unrepresented need a voice.” — Brent Wardrop

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“Mr. Miller is an extraordinary human being. He came into my life in 1968 as the new band teacher at my junior high school. Within a year he had transformed our struggling band program into a program where students were encouraged and excited to be making music and also connecting in new ways as people. For me, the impact was much bigger.

“I was brought up in a very dysfunctional home and was depressed and suicidal. [He] opened his heart and listened respectfully to whatever I had to say. He made me feel important, and allowed me to co-teach with him and help out younger band members. The band room became the ‘safe space’ where several of us hung out after school to practice and talk about life with this warm and caring man. As the years passed, he brought the band program to a level where several tours were organized, including one to Europe. More importantly, he brought his presence and caring to every student he worked with. I’m sure I wasn’t the only suicidal student whose life he saved. I went on to become a teacher myself, and always strove to live up to the kind of teacher he was and is.” — Judy Hancock

NOTE: Responses from readers have been edited. Full names of teachers have been changed.

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