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Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

I have very vivid memories of staying in the basement of our old apartment. I would stand in front of a white board and gaze out into a row of empty chairs and pretend to be a teacher. I wrote on the board the activity that my teacher had taught me that day and then I would ask questions aloud and hear the imaginary answers in my head. And then I’d answer my own exercises. I should have known then that I was going to be a teacher.

My professor in college said, that all teachers become teachers because at some point a teacher inspired them. (This was a speech he had given when he received the university’s teaching award.) Well, the Lord must have been extra generous with me because my whole academic experience has been filled with inspiring teachers. And I can remember all of my teachers too-all the way from nursery to graduate school.

In kindergarten and grade school, my teachers were kind but firm. I knew that they cared enough about me to call my attention when I misbehaved and to affirm me when I did well. (I got sent out of the classroom once for talking too much. Never happened again!) They were patient with me and my classmates. And they made learning fun. I remember I had a kindergarten teacher who gave out gold star cutouts to those who did well in class. They were so precious to me that I told my mother to put them in her jewelry box. I had a grade school teacher who wrote birthday greetings with drawings of fireworks and flowers for everybody’s birthday. EVERYBODY! And another teacher who drilled me in diagraming sentences so much that there is no sentence that I cannot break apart and dissect. My teachers loved me and they loved teaching-or even if they didn’t, they never showed it. And for that, I will always be grateful.

In high school, my teachers trusted me and believed in me. They gave me responsibilities that I didn’t know I was capable of doing. They gave me opportunities to try new things and challenges to push myself. And they were faithful. They came in. Day in and day out. And with all the things my classmates and I put them through, I would have left the building screaming. But they stayed and they did the best they could. All the way till graduation. And for that, I will always be grateful.

In college, my professors questioned me and they confused me. And they allowed me to ask crazy questions and made me look for the answers myself. And they made me think and rethink the way I thought. And they made me see the world was a much bigger place than I thought it was. And for that, I will always be grateful.

In graduate school, my professors pointed me in the right direction, showed me what questions were worth asking and proved by example that no one should ever stop learning. And for that, I will always be grateful.

I no longer pretend-teach in a basement. I teach real kids now. And their answers are real and definitely entertaining. And when I stand in front of them, I no longer know how much of me is me and how much of me is my teachers. I stand, as Isaac Newton once said, on the shoulders of giants. And for that, I will always be grateful.

Today, young education graduates and would-be teachers will be taking the Licensure Exam for Teachers. Let’s wish them well and pray for them.

UNESCO has designated October 5 as World Teachers’ Day. You might want to take this opportunity to thank your teacher. You’re never too old to thank a teacher and, believe me, your teacher will never get tired of hearing it. Ever.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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