Get Inspired: Our Favorite Teacher Story of the Week

Our readers, along with celebrities and others, gush over the teachers they adore. Here's our favorite this week.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 11, 2014· 1 MIN READ
TakePart Staff

Inspired by our documentary TEACH, we got talking about how we all have a favorite teacher we often think of, but that we rarely share these important stories out loud. So we've kicked off a contest asking readers to send us stories about the teacher who's had the biggest, most positive influence in their lives. And we're donating upwards of $10,000 to the schools of those teachers with the most and best entries.

Below, Judy Barrera shares the story of her favorite teacher, Bernie Griff, from Wade Thomas Elementary School in San Anselmo, Calif., who helped Barrera adjust to her life in a new state and school.

As soon as I walked into Bernie's third/fourth/fifth-grade classroom, I knew it was going to be a different experience. There were a few rows of desks, as usual, but there were couches in the class library, a large guinea pig in a huge cage, and a back table with piles of art supplies, office supplies, and more. It had been a year since I moved from an Indian reservation in Arizona to San Anselmo, California, and I was not adjusting well. Though I was not Native American, I had absolutely nothing in common with the other white kids in my school and was struggling to make friends. On top of that, I had a serious math issue. I thought I was weird and stupid. Bernie got to know me and realized that while I was only eight, I was reading at a high school level. He went to the local high school and got books for me to read. He taught me how to take a "time-out" whenever I felt tense, especially during math time. In his class, it was OK to just walk away from my desk, go to the library, and read or play with the guinea pig or do something to relax until I could return. He and his teacher assistant spent hours with me on math and assigned me a fifth-grade tutor, who also worked with me. Bernie was funny, kind, and extremely patient. He also made me realize I was not weird or stupid. He loved hearing stories about the reservation and helped me adapt to my new world by helping me embrace my differences. I am a teacher now, and Bernie is always in my head. I think of his patience and how he thought outside the box to help a scared, angry kid like me, and I try to emulate him. He is one of my inspirations.

Send us your story to help us grow the donation pile ($2 added for every story up to $50,000), honor your teacher, and possibly win money for your school. So tell us, who’s your teacher hero?

This article was created as part of the social action campaign for the documentary TEACH, produced by TakePart’s parent company, Participant Media, in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates.