Essay On Teacher Who Inspires You Contest

Rita Pierson leads off TED Talks Education, our first televised event, which will air on PBS on May 7. Photo: Ryan Lash

Rita Pierson is the kind of teacher you wish you had. An educator for 40 years, she is funny, sharp and simply has a way with words — so much so that today’s talk feels a bit like a sermon.

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion In this talk, Pierson shares the secret to teaching students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds — make personal connections with them.

“I have had classes so low, so academically deficient that I cried. I wondered, ‘How am I going to take this group in nine months from where they are to where they need to be?” says Pierson, in this amazing talk. “I came up with a bright idea … I gave them a saying: ‘I am somebody. I was somebody when I came and I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here’ … You say it long enough, it starts to be a part of you.”

Pierson’s talk will open our first-ever television special, TED Talks Education, which airs Tuesday, May 7 at 10/9c on PBS. It will be an exhilarating night, featuring talks from educators and innovators with bold ideas, plus performances from host John Legend. Set your DVRs and read lots more here »

In honor of Rita Pierson and TED Talks Education, I asked the TED staff: who is that one teacher who just really, truly influenced you?

“The teacher who changed my life was, serendipitously, my English teacher for kindergarten, 7th grade and senior year of high school. Ms. Barbato taught me how to write eloquently (I hope!), and she had this unexplained faith in me that really galvanized me as a student. What she taught me stuck with me through college and beyond.” —Olivier Sherman, Distribution Coordinator

“Mr. Eric Yang was only in his mid-twenties when I had him as my AP government teacher, but he was unforgettable. He was the first teacher I had who made keeping up with current events mandatory, forcing us to read news sources on our own time and not just from the textbook. He exuded discipline, and that was contagious.” —Thu-Huong Ha, Editorial Projects Specialist

“Mrs. Bailey was my English teacher. I loved her. I was the younger sister of an already very successful big sister, and that was a cloud over my head too. She held my hand and brought me into the sun with her love of the English language. She recommended books just to me, she made me feel special and I just couldn’t get enough of her. I went on a school trip to Amsterdam with her and she brought her husband, who was an artist. She changed my life.” —Juliet Blake, TED TV (who executive produced TED Talks Education)

“Mrs. Mendelson, my 8th-grade English teacher. This was my first year living in the U.S. I think she set the stage for future learning and she’s the main reason I have such good English right now, both written and spoken. So, thank you, Mrs. Mendelson.”  —Ruben Marcos, intern

“I still recall how awesome my 6th-grade teacher, Mr. Fawess, was. Middle school in general is basically Hades. I was extremely small, super nerdy, and had a unibrow, asthma and glasses — plus I left school once a week to take classes at the local high school. I got picked on a lot. Mr. Fawess came up with all these ways to take my mind off that — he talked to me about bullying and how to let things roll off your shoulder and gave me books I could read outside of class. He got me thinking about college early and what kinds of subjects I was most interested in. I consider myself lucky to have had such an inspiring teacher. If only he had discouraged me from dressing up as the skunk in our annual school play.” —Amanda Ellis, TEDx Projects Coordinator

“Robert Baldwin’s class ‘Essay and Inquiry.’ Every day: Walk into class. Sit down. Look at the handout on every desk. Read it. Start writing. Class ends — stop writing. Every day. Except Wednesday, when we’d put the desks in a circle and everyone would read something they’d written. The prompts were everything from simple questions like, “What’s your favorite memory of trees?” to readings from Rachel Carson or W.B. Yeats or Orson Welles. It was a whirlwind of ideas, and the constant writing forced us to wrestle with them, and (tritely but correctly) ourselves. It was like a boot camp in thinking. People I know who took, and loved, that class went on to some of the most amazing careers. Every time we get together, we gush about the quiet, unassuming, force of nature that was Mr. Baldwin. He would have hated that last sentence, because the metaphor is strained. But he also taught us to ignore authority, so I’m writing it anyway.” —Ben Lillie, Writer/Editor

“My high school band director, Mr. Koch, pushed me to reach my full potential. I knew all along that I wouldn’t build a career around playing the tuba, but he never allowed me to think like that. As I slacked and rebelled, he never let me forget that I possessed a special talent. I hated it at the time but now I’m able to reflect — he taught me self-respect and discipline in a firm but kind way. I am forever grateful to him for challenging me.” —Gwen Schroeder, Post-Production Manager

“Mrs. Lewis, my 5th-grade teacher, read to us every week. She made us put our heads on the desk and close our eyes and then read wonderful stories to us: The Golden Pine Cone, The Diamond Feather ... It made our imaginations come alive.” Janet McCartney, Director of Events

“My junior high school science teacher, Dr. Ernie Roy, with his outsized laugh and booming voice, was one of my very favorite teachers. He demonstrated to us how important we were to him by making what were obviously personal sacrifices on our behalf: when the lab needed equipment, we knew he had purchased some of it on his own; when we couldn’t get a bus for a field trip, he took a few of us in his own car (something which could have gotten him into quite a bit of trouble); and when a big science fair deadline loomed large, he opened the lab every weekend to help us with our experiments. At a point in my life when I didn’t have a lot of guidance or positive role models, he taught me a lot more than science; he taught me, by example, the power of sacrifice, discipline and self-respect.” —Michael McWatters, UX Architect

“Dr. Heller, my 10th-grade social studies teacher, taught me that passion is the key to learning. I had never met anyone from kindergarten to 10th grade that matched his raw passion for the meaning behind historical events, and it was so contagious.” —Deron Triff, Director of Distribution

“Rene Arcilla, a professor of Educational Philosophy at NYU, changed the way I think.  Prior to that class, I hadn’t truly been challenged about what *I* actually thought — much of my educational life was about regurgitating answers. Rene was the first teacher who asked me questions that he/we didn’t know the answers to. Realizing that I had to actually provide the answers from within myself, and not look to an outside source, was very difficult at first. It was a muscle I had to build. I owe a lot of who I am today — and even this job — to the introspective, critical and philosophical thinking I learned from Rene’s classes.” —Susan Zimmerman, Executive Assistant to the Curator

“Mr. Downey — 7th- and 8th-grade Humanities. Still the hardest class I’ve ever taken!  I’d credit Mr. Downey with helping me think more expansively about the world. Right before 8th-grade graduation, he showed us Dead Poets Society, and on the final day of class we all agreed to stand on our desks and recite ‘O Captain, my captain.’ It was all very dramatic and I think there were tears.” —Jennifer Gilhooley, Partnership Development

“I took my first painting class my sophomore year of high school and fell in love with it. My teacher, Ms. Bowen, told me I could use the art studio whenever I wanted to, and gave me access to all kinds of new paints and canvasses. I spent almost every lunch period there for a few years, and regularly stayed in the studio after school ended. One day, Ms. Bowen told me that a parent of a student I had painted expressed interest in buying the painting of her daughter. After that first sale, I painted portraits of kids in my school on a commission basis, and continued to do so for the remainder of my high school experience. Thanks to Ms. Bowen’s mentorship, I felt empowered to try to make money from something I was passionate about and loved to do. Here is one of the paintings.” —Cloe Shasha, TED Projects Coordinator

“I had a chemistry teacher, Mr. Sampson, who used to meet me at school an hour before it started to tutor me when the material wasn’t clicking. That was the first class I had ever really struggled with, and he made this investment to help me get through the material — but more importantly learn that I could teach myself anything.” —Stephanie Kent, Special Projects

“On the first day of my Elementary Italian Immersion class, I asked to be excused to use the restroom in English. Professor Agostini kept speaking rapidly in Italian as I squirmed in my seat. Since she seemed unclear about my request, I asked her again to no avail. Finally, I flipped through my brand-new Italian-English dictionary and discovered the words, ‘Posso usare il bagno per favore.’ Suddenly, she flashed me a smile, handed me the key, told me where to go in Italian, and pointed to my dictionary so I could learn how to follow her directions. Even though I only studied with her for one semester, I will never forget that I emerged from her class knowing intermediate-level Italian.” —Jamia Wilson, TED Prize Storyteller

“My history teacher in high school, Mr. Cook, challenged us to think hard about what happened in the past and directly related it to what was happening around us. He gave us ways to try and predict what could happen in the future. He was the first person to make me take ownership of what it meant to be a citizen and the social responsibility that came with that. Because he taught ‘World History’ rather than a regionally specific class, we learned extensively about other countries, and I am convinced he is the reason that I went abroad to Ghana in college and I am now still an avid traveler today.” —Samantha Kelly, Fellows Group

“The professor who taught me Intro to Women and Gender Studies my sophomore year of college completely changed my framework for thinking about human relationships within a hierarchy. She brought coffee and tea to class for us every morning to congratulate us for being so dedicated to learning as to choose an 8:30 a.m. class. When I emailed her to say I’d be out sick, she sent me a get-well e-card. And when, in a fit of undergraduate irresponsibility, I simply failed to do an assignment, she wasn’t the least bit mad — instead, I received a phone call from her a week after the end of the semester informing me that, because I’d done such good work, she couldn’t bear to give me the B+ I numerically deserved. It was incredible to see how fully she lived the subject she taught; the philosophy of compassion and equality.” —Morton Bast, Editorial Assistant

“My high school photography teacher, Susan Now. I’m convinced that the support I got from Susan got me through high school. Two years later, when I was freaked out about transferring colleges, I, without hesitation, called her for advice. She made me feel comfortable and challenged me to speak up and be confident with expressing myself as a student. So valuable!” — Ella Saunders-Crivello, Partnerships Coordinator

“Cliff Simon, one of my college professors, taught me that wisdom is the greatest pursuit, our skills and passions are transferable, and that fear will only ever always hold us back.  To this day, he’s a great mentor.  We’re now great friends, and I even officiated his wedding ceremony.” —Jordan Reeves, TED-Ed Community Manager

“My 10th-grade biology teacher spoke and interacted with me like I was a grown-up individual and not one of a batch of ‘kids.’ He made us all fascinated with the subjects he taught because he spoke to us not at us. I always worked hard to match that capacity that he saw in me. He was only in his 50s when, a few years after I graduated, he died suddenly of a heart attack. Lots of sad former students.” —Ladan Wise, Product Development Manager

“Stephen O’Leary, my professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, showed me that the quality of my thinking could be directly traced to the quality of the authors I referenced in my bibliography. This realization motivated me to both seek and challenge everything I have read ever since. This habit likely played a part in me finding myself so passionate about being a part of TED.” —Sarah Shewey, TEDActive Program Producer

“My high school art teacher was equal parts smart and silly, and always insightful. Mr. Miller showed a bunch of restless seniors that art class wasn’t just about memorizing which painters influenced which periods. Instead, he taught us that art was — at its core — an exciting way to touch both the head and the heart. Mr. Miller took our  class to the Met in New York one warm spring afternoon, a trip I’ll never forget. Great art, he told us, was about great ideas, and not simply the pleasing arrangement of color, shape and form. Thank you, Russ Miller.” —Jim Daly, TED Books 

“Mrs. Presley, my 1st-grade teacher, advanced my reading skills to full-on chapter book independence … and for that I’ll be forever grateful! But the most valuable gift she gave me was self-esteem. At my school, we’d bring a brown bag lunch with our name written on the bag. I always wanted a middle name like the other kids, and this daily ritual made me feel the lack. I must have let my mom know, because she started to write middle names on my bag. At first it started: ‘Marla Ruby Mitchnick.’ Then ‘Marla Ruby Diamond Mitchnick,’ and then ‘Marla Ruby Diamond Violet Mitchnick,’ and so on. Mrs. Presley never skipped a single syllable — she just read it straight through, and I felt like a beloved and fortunate person with a beautiful name, surrounded by wonderful friends.” —Marla Mitchnick, Film + Video Editor

“I signed up for Journalism 1 in high school having no idea what I was getting myself into. Marcie Pachino ran a rigorous course on the joys of telling other people’s stories and on the extreme responsibility that comes with reporting news that might otherwise go unheard. She was kind and inspiring, but wouldn’t hesitate to give you an edit of an article that simply read ‘Ugh’ in big red letters. The key: you always knew she was right. I went on to become a journalist professionally and, in all my years of writing, I’ve never encountered a more demanding editor.” —Kate Torgovnick, Writer (the author of this post)

“Professor Stephen Commins completely changed my  learning experience at UCLA. He pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could accomplish as an undergrad, and having him as my research professor improved my quality of education tenfold. I’ll never forget in my last lecture with him, he left our class with this piece of advice: to work on poverty domestically before attempting to help those abroad, because you aren’t truly a development professional until you have done both.” —Chiara Baldanza, Coordinator

“My high school English teacher Veronica Stephenson went above and beyond to allow me the opportunity to dive into theater and acting in a very underfunded arts community. She saw passion in me, and engaged it by spending a lot of her own time and effort to help me pursue something I loved. I learned so much from her and got more personalized experience than I probably would have from a more arts-focused curriculum due solely to her faith in me.” —Emilie Soffe, Office Coordinator

Now it’s your turn. Who is the teacher who most inspired you? Please share in your comments.

Andrew Motion Former poet laureate

My background was very unbookish, and there was absolutely no expectation from my family of my ever reading very much or even writing anything. I wanted to birdwatch and be left alone. Then I was taught English by Peter Way (Mr Way to me), and it was as though he walked into my head and turned all the lights on.

He manifested in everything he said and did that poems were not a strange addition to life, but a part of it. And that is one of the great lessons of my life. He didn't know he was doing this, but he gave me my life. He lent me poems he liked and I showed him poems I had written, which weren't really poems but more an explosion of words. But he took me completely seriously. He introduced me to Woods, ­Larkin, Keats, Edward Thomas – all people who have meant more to me than anyone else. His way of teaching was very searching but also very passionate and scrupulous. When I left, he gave me the latest published edition of Moly by Thom Gunn, which had druggy poems in it. It was wonderful ­evidence of his broadmindedness – as if I needed any proof. He was an exemplary figure to me and now a dear friend. I don't doubt that if he hadn't taught me English, I would now be working for the RSPB.

Sarah Waters, Novelist

My most inspiring teacher was Ed Tanguay; he taught me art A-level at Milford Haven grammar school, south-west Wales, in the early 1980s. He was a really brilliant guy – inspiring in the best possible way, not just because he had all sorts of technical expertise and was good at passing it on, but because he encouraged us to think. Until he came along, art classes had been about putting a few objects on the desk and drawing them; he got us to do all sorts of crazy exercises – things about perception and response. He was a bit of an iconoclast, I suppose. One day he arrived at school having forgotten to wear a tie; he got us to make him one out of painted cardboard. He was ­everything a good teacher should be: stern at times, but good-­natured; clever, creative, and fun.

Michael Morpurgo, Author

I'm the proud owner of a third- class degree and have been teaching for 40 years, so I'm interested to learn that the Tories don't think I'd be up to the job now. The teacher who most inspired me was Edred Wright, director of music at the King's School, Canterbury. His great gift was being able to inspire children (like me) who weren't necessarily musically gifted – that's what we should require of teachers in all subjects. With Mr Wright it was never about improving the reputation of the school, just his intense love of music. What that man taught me aged 14 has ­enriched my entire life.

Robert Peston, BBC business editor

I went to a north London comprehensive in the 1970s. It was called Highgate Wood, and it had been created out of a secondary modern. The ethos of the school, created by the head, Eurof Walters, was that every kid deserved an equal chance to succeed. They were great at not writing off anyone – and lots of kids were given opportunities they wouldn't have had under a selective system.

Two teachers had a particularly big impact on me: Ruby Galili who taught history, and Peter Hudgell, head of English. I have no idea what qualifications they had, but they loved their respective subjects, knew tonnes about them, and were brilliant at communicating their learning and their enthusiasm. I still keep in touch with Ruby. She has ­always been supportive, then and now. She's like all great teachers – consistent.

Deborah Moggach, Author

My most inspiring teacher was my English teacher at Camden school for girls. She was called Margot Heinemann and wasn't like a teacher at all, she was a hugely intelligent woman with large dark eyes and a Past. This included ­being the lover of John Cornford, a beautiful young poet who died in the Spanish civil war, and what could be more potent than that? I adored her, we all did, because she treated us as grownups. Camden girls were famously grownup anyway, alarmingly so, but she seemed to take that for granted even more than the other staff. She introduced us to The Waste Land, to books outside the curriculum, and somehow to life itself, with all its tragedy as well as its possibilities.

Paddy Ashdown, Politician

John Eyre really changed my life. He persuaded me to join the poetry society (which all rugby playing "hearties" resolutely despised) and gave me a lifetime love of poetry, even getting me to write some for the school magazine. Eyre lit in me a fire for literature, especially Shakespeare, which has never gone out. He persuaded me to act in the school play (I was a wordless monk in Auden and Isherwood's The ­Ascent of F6). He even, with the assistance of another master in my house, got me to join a group to sing in (and win!) a madrigal competition – which, to anyone who knows my totally tuneless voice and incapacity to hold a melody, was nothing short of a miracle.

I went to see him for lunch in 2001, five years before he died. He had lost none of his old spark, or his impish and acerbic nature. He opened our last meeting with, "Ah yes, Ashdown – you were ­always an interesting boy. But you were one of the few to surprise me – I never thought you would get as far as you have. Still, there's no ­accounting for fate is there?"

Kamila Shamsie, Novelist

Through much of my childhood in Karachi I was painfully insecure. In classrooms, when the teacher asked a question, I'd never raise my hand because I'd worry I was wrong. All this changed in class five when Mrs Rehman was my class teacher. I still don't know how she did it – but in the kindness of her manner, in a certain way she had of asking a question and then looking directly at me as though to say, "Go on, speak up: if you're wrong, that's OK," she made me feel confident. It's not that I started to believe I always had the right answers; instead I came to see that not knowing the right answers wasn't such a problem. From Mrs Rehman I learnt to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

Michael ­Winner, Director and critic

When I was 17, I went to a private tutorial establishment that was based in Buckingham Gate and Guildford, and met the greatest educationalist I have ever met. Her name was KM Hobbs. She wrote to my parents and told them I was illiterate. She said, "If you think your son is ­going to get into Cambridge, you'll have a long wait." Within a year I had passed the ­necessary exams and I was a student at Cambridge, still at the age of 17. She turned a moron into something close to a genius. That was a great achievement.

Sharon Horgan, Comedian

I didn't have great luck with my teachers. I remember a series of chinless wonders and impotent bullies. And that was just the nuns. The only one I ever think about was a lady from my primary school days called Eileen Daly. She was tough as a brick, scary, ­opinionated, a bit of a dark horse, she'd tell you to sit down and shut up if she felt like it, but she had the ability to make kids feel like they were individually important. And she had a sense of humour. I remember once ­cycling with my friend to the village where she lived and knocking on her door, hoping to sell her some tickets for a sponsored charity thing. She invited us into her home. We sat around, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with her, like equals. It was so exciting. She bought a load of tickets and we left buzzing from all the caffeine. The thought of making her proud makes me happy.

Bonnie Greer, Playwright and critic

One of my best teachers was my history professor, Dr Turner, at university at the beginning of the 1970s. He laid the facts down and was able to show how history moved in cycles. He predicted the disaster of Richard Nixon and Watergate, based on Nixon's activities in the 1950s. He let me see that history is written by the victors not the vanquished, and that it is always necessary to ­investigate – never to take ­anyone's word for anything.

Alexei Sayle, Author and actor

When I was at foundation art college in Southport there was a teacher there called Max Eden who had known ­Picasso in the 1950s. He was wonderfully ­dismissive about things like art A-level. "Just draw the fingernails and you'll pass," he told me. He also showed me how the way you lived your life could be a work of art. Recently I opened a new wing of Southport college and they gave me one of his paintings, which I treasure.

Kate Mosse, Author

I went to a comprehensive school in Sussex in the 1970s, where one teacher stood out, my A-level English teacher, Henry Thomas. He was by way of being an eccentric – tall, patrician, often done up in a white suit and Panama – kind of a Jean Brodie, though young and English. He was passionate about writing, reading, talking too, always engaged and enthusiastic, and made each lesson unique, fun, exciting. He didn't suffer fools, but in return treated us as thinking people with opinions worth listening to. As a result, we all raised our game and, in his lessons, were students rather than schoolgirls. Most important – and even harder these days of league tables and inflexibility – he encouraged us to think not about passing exams and grades, but rather the books themselves and the writers behind them. An exceptional teacher.

Rory Bremner, Comedian

Derek Swift taught me French at Wellington College. He was ­unconventional, original and ­inspiring, constantly inventing his own teaching materials and covering the whiteboard with words and phrases in anything from German to Serbo-Croat. In his class of 24, 21 got A grades and 3 got Bs. He taught us Russian in his spare time – four got As and two got Bs. We were like Alan Bennett's History Boys. He always challenged us, setting sixth-formers Oxbridge Finals prose exams and using Asterix and other comic strips as ­learning aids. He also introduced me to Voltaire's novel Candide – and therefore to satire.

Shazia Mirza, Comedian

My drama teacher Mrs Fisher-Jones was a great teacher. She always told me I was really funny and that I should develop that. I didn't know what that meant – I hadn't even heard of stand-ups then. She would let us write our own plays and do improv. There were loads of us who didn't go into the arts but still remember what a brilliant teacher she was. I still get Christmas cards from her now. She says she always knew what I would do.

Trevor Baylis, Inventor

I failed my 11+ and went to Dormers Wells secondary modern in Southall after the second world war. We were considered to be inferior to those at grammar school and we were made to feel that as well. To start with, I didn't want to know. Teaching me must have been like trying to communicate with a slab of tripe. One teacher in particular encouraged me to get hands on. He taught woodwork and metalwork and showed me, literally, how to use a spanner. He would show you how to drill a bit of wood, how to sharpen your tools etc. He was a very bright type, a very intelligent chap but he was a very fatherly type too. This was before the days when health and safety came into the equation and we didn't have safety helmets but that helped me grow up as well. My teacher had to know about first aid because every lesson someone would cut their finger, so he was also a nurse as well.

David Nicholls, Writer

There was something of a double-act at my school (Toynbee Comprehensive, Eastleigh, 1977-1983); music teacher Mary Granger, and drama teacher David Dalton. Both showed incredible tolerance and enthusiasm, given that I had no discernible talent in either subject.

Miss Granger, in particular, was obliged to hear me alternate Imagine and In The Air Tonight on the rehearsal room piano, often for hours at a time. Both teachers gave a great deal of their own time to pursuing out-of-hours projects. "Strict but fair" is an awful cliche, but both managed to combine passion for their subjects with discipline and rigour. They also managed to conquer the suspicion and indifference of the (male) students. I sometimes wish that I'd had the same inspiration in more "sensible" vocational subjects. Instead I spent far too much of my adult life pursuing a career as an actor, without ever really having the ability to act.

Glyn Maxwell, Poet

In the old days there was a "seventh-term" set aside for Oxbridge candidates. There were only two or three of us going for it at my school, so we'd wander round, in and out of the building as we pleased, beholden to no one, a vaguely celestial "upper-upper-sixth".

One of my Oxbridge tutors was a man called Peter Gardiner. What was odd about Mr Gardiner was that he'd come from a glittering career in various top private schools – headmaster at one of the best – and, for his own reasons, had decided to finish his career as deputy head at our Welwyn Garden comprehensive. It seemed to me like this chap had walked right out of Greyfriars into Grange Hill. We made fun of his accent and his two posh middle names.

I went to him for one-to-one coaching in English. I'd shamble into his office reeking of smoke from the toilets, I'd not have read anything he recommended, I had all the miserable self-pity of the fortunate and promising. And this fiftysomething old gentleman – I didn't know any gentlemen – looked at me with the face of a passionate boy whose love of books and stories had filled his life to the brim.

We were different generations: I was the old at their worst: mind made up, black-or-white, full of myself, bad habits. He was the young at their best: open, innocent, self-effacing, eager to share. I think a great teacher isn't talking to you: he's talking to someone he can see inside you, so that in time you shed who you think you are, like an old skin, and walk out into the sun again as young as you can be.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

I don't think it's enough that teachers just need to be an elite graduate – you have to like children and be skilled at communicating with them, so I would challenge the idea that you have to be an academic genius to be a good teacher. It is more about opening up children to the possibilities that come from learning. Many of my best teachers taught music. I was never going to be a professional musician, but that didn't matter – to have a teacher who took an interest in me, and shared their passion was hugely valuable.

I couldn't pick out a single teacher, I had many who inspired me. The difference between the teachers I loved and those I didn't was whether they treated me as a person, engaged in a debate. You may find this hard to believe, but I was probably quite a challenging, argumentative kid. The teachers who were best were the ones who realised how important intelligent dissent is, rather than churning out people who become cogs in the wheel. Not all were like this, but enough of my teachers respected me, encouraged my curiosity and dissenting nature.

Lynne Truss, Author and journalist

I went to Tiffin Girls in Kingston from 1966 to 1973, and my recollection is that it never occurred to any of us to criticise the teachers, or appreciate them very much either. In the run-up to my history O-level, I did realise I wasn't learning enough, but I blamed the period, not the teacher. To save the situation, I asked her whether I could look at some exam papers, to see what else I could answer questions on. Then I just mugged up this other stuff by myself. The best teacher I had taught religious knowledge, so I took it to A-level, despite being a non-believer. His name was Levi Dawson, and I'm pretty sure, now I come to think of it, that I looked up to him mainly because he was the first person I'd ever met who had written a book.

Dinos Chapman, Artist

I hated every single one of my teachers and if any one of them are still alive, I hope they read this. They were horrible old fascists, convinced you could beat education into kids, and they threatened to cut my hair because I had lovely locks back then. It obviously traumatised me because now I'm completely bald.

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