We’ve always known that teachers have an extraordinary ability to make a positive impact. But I think sometimes we forget how that can happen with just a passing comment or casual remark. We asked our audience to share the kind things a teacher said that they’ll never forget, and it was clear that in as little as four words, teachers could change the way a student sees themselves—even decades later.

“When I was in sixth grade, I got second place in the school spelling bee.”

“I was pretty bummed about not getting first place, but when I got back to the classroom, my teacher and classmates had made a big banner for me and were chanting a song they had made up about how they were proud of me. I’ll never forget it. Fast-forward 25 years, and I’m running our school spelling bee next week. I hope I can be as encouraging to those kids as my sixth grade teacher was to me.”

—Debbie P.

“My elementary teacher, Mrs. Mandville (RIP), observed me explaining my science fair project on light refraction when I was in grade 6 and said I’d make a great teacher.”

“Fast-forward 33 years and I’m still teaching!”

—Darlene W.

“A college professor wrote in a letter of recommendation that I was born to teach.”

“I burst into tears when I read it. I’ve now been teaching for 23 years!”

—Nicole J.

“I had a seventh grade writing assignment where we had to ‘continue’ a short story we had finished reading.”

“I took Montresor from ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ back upstairs to the streets of carnival to continue his madness. I don’t even remember what I wrote, but I remember the comment on my returned story. ‘Sounds like Poe!’ I’ll never forget it, and that still fuels my writing.”

—Dana S.

“In grade 5, Mrs. Block bought all of us colorful little writer’s notebooks and let us write anything we wanted.”

“I wrote a page about how odd I thought it was that my mom had nostrils that were slightly different sizes. When Mrs. Block read it, she told me I should become an author. I was surprised, as I’d never considered myself to be a writer, but she was my favorite teacher and I figured she knew what she was talking about. The next year I applied to be a kid reporter for my state newspaper and got the job, and to this day I still find writing in little colorful notebooks to be one of my favorite, soothing activities. Each year I also buy my middle school students their own colorful notebooks and give them free writing time, and I look for opportunities to let them know when their writing is truly exemplary.”

—Chelsea P.

“‘I hope my son grows up to be like you,’ Mrs. Olafson, grade 6, said.”

“Thanks, Mrs. O! 38 years later I still remember that.”

—Jana H.

“When we were rehearsing the class play, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Boyce, said, ‘Everyone needs to be as loud as Melissa. Melissa could be the Three Little Pigs all by herself.”

“For a kid who was super shy, it made me feel incredibly proud and was the start of my lifelong love of acting.”

—Melissa O.

“My fifth grade teacher told me that I was an excellent writer.”

“I didn’t make a career out of it, but it has been helpful to me my whole life.”

—Pam S.

“My high school French teacher, Ann Spies, encouraged me to travel, telling me I was meant for bigger things than my tiny hometown.”

“Her care and support gave me the strength to spend a year as an exchange student, which changed my life forever. I have been teaching for 27 years now, and my most cherished hope is that, before I’m done, I will have impacted at least one child as immensely as she did me.”

—Colleen M.

“I was an introverted, quiet child up until the third grade.”

“Mrs. Williamson walked up to my desk one day and said to me, ‘You’re an extraordinary child.’ That was right after I had participated in an extempore speech competition for the first time and I had stepped out of my comfort zone. I remember reading ‘Great Expectations’ that year. I have never stopped reading or yapping ever since Mrs. Williamson’s 4-word pep talk!”

—Oshima Y.

“My 11th grade accounting teacher told me I’d make an excellent mum one day.”

“The day I had my son … I thought about that very statement.”

—Yeshi R.

“It seems silly now, but when I was in second grade, I asked my teacher if you crossed both Ts together or separately when writing in cursive.”

“She then announced to the class that I had asked a great question. I really don’t recall her answer now, but I do remember that comment making a very shy girl feel very good.”

—Meredith M.

“‘Your voice carries.’ I became a debater.”

—Margaret A.

“My fifth grade teacher told me that I was ‘a diamond in the rough.’”

“I didn’t really understand it then, but now I do, and now I am a fifth grade teacher too!”

—Anne D.

“Senior year I was feeling concerned that if I don’t choose the right career and college path at 17 years old, I will doom myself for life.”

“My art teacher overheard my stress and said something like, ‘Look, I’m a full-grown adult and I STILL don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! You don’t have to have it all figured out right now.’ That was so helpful. I truly didn’t know that I could change my mind at any point—even into adulthood—and be OK. I’d never heard an adult say that before. Took A LOT of stress off my 17-year-old anxiety and still makes me smile today.”

—Lisa CW

“I had a teacher give me a note that said ‘Jane, you are a very kind and considerate person.’”

“That was 43 years ago, and I still have the note.”

—Jane J.

“My sixth grade history teacher, Mr. Harold, marked something correct on a test that I had taken.”

“I showed him that I had the wrong answer and he said that because I had the integrity to tell him of his mistake, I could keep the credit. I now say and do the same when my students tell me I made a grading error.”

—Jennie S.

“Fran Moore once wrote, ‘You are a bright spot in my day,’ in my yearbook.”

“That never left me. I still think of it now, and I make sure to tell my students the same. I certainly didn’t feel like I was a bright spot in anyone’s day, so that one simple phrase did more for me than she could ever know.”

—Katy J.

“Mrs. Booth, third grade, 1985. ‘You’re a great writer.’”

—Kelsy C.

“That I had a sincere heart and enjoyed helping others.”

“Even today, my priority is to help others.”

—Andrea Z.

“My high school ag teacher. ‘There are three ways to be a leader: by example, by example, and by example.’”

“I have frequently quoted him over the 18 years I’ve been in the classroom.”

—Jolene W.

“I had a music teacher who, after his baby was born and I commented that she weighed the same as me when I was born, said he hoped she grew up to be just like me.”

—Wendy L.

“My middle school principal told me that he noticed that I always sit near a kid who needs a friend in the cafeteria.”

—Beth R.

“I was complimented on my love and use of color in my paintings by my high school art teacher, Mr. Alibrandi.”

—Suzanne U.

“One of my most admired English professors complimented me on the intelligent, perceptive answers I gave in our single session discussion group.”

“This comment gave me such confidence. For 47 years of teaching I made it a point to find as many opportunities as I could to give honest positive feedback to my students. I hope I reached many of them the way he reached me.”

—Carolyn S.

“I’m glad you’re here.”

—Lisa H.

In a time when it’s easy to feel forgotten and ignored as a teacher, let these comments be a reminder that our work matters—arguably now more than ever.

What kind comment do you remember from a teacher? Let us know in the comments.

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