October 19th, 2010
11:04 AM ET

iReport daily challenge: #BeAHero for teachers

Editor's Note: Learn about the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2010 and vote for the CNN Hero of the Year at CNNHeroes.com.

America’s public schools are failing. That’s the provocative premise of two new education documentaries “Waiting for Superman” and “The Lottery.” The films, which follow families who are frustrated with the public schools in their neighborhoods, have sparked a debate about what education solutions are needed.

One of the chief complaints in the discussion is that the films ignore the good work that’s happening in public schools.

You can help.

Here's your “Be a Hero” call to action for the day: Give a public shout out to a public school teacher who made a difference in your life. It could be your child’s teacher, or an instructor you had as a child.

By 3 p.m. EST today post your response in the comments here, tweet your praise with the hashtag #BeAHero or send us an iReport about that special teacher. Which teacher did you choose? How did that person inspire, motivate or change you?

Check back here in the evening, when we will post a roundup of the most standout daily heroics.

Post by:
Filed under: #BeaHero
soundoff (169 Responses)
  1. Wendy Byard

    In my book "Teach and Reach for Classroom Miracles! Lessons on Teaching With Love", I mention my high school science teacher, Fred Cupal, who helped shape the course of my life.

    As a ninth grader in Mr. Cupal's class, I was a flirt and a class clown. I'm sure the well-spoken, demanding teacher was not impressed. I sat in the back of his class chatting mindlessly.

    Then, in my senior year, I had Mr. Cupal's class again. But now I had my act together. I listened in class, took notes, and succeeded in my studies. I matured. However, I still did not see myself as smart or academic. I had played the class clown role for too long, and that is how others responded to me and viewed me. But not Mr. Cupal.

    One day, he unexpectedly called me to the front of his class. As I walked past glass beakers, I wondered what Mr. Cupal had to say.

    "Class," he began, "I'd like to tell you about this young lady. She has come a long way. From an average student in the ninth grade, Wendy has shown that with hard work and determination, you can succeed. She has also shown me how smart and capable she is. I believe Wendy is a very bright person who could do just about anything with her life. She has so much potential. And I just want to say how proud I am of her."

    I just stood there. No one had ever said those words to me. Smart. Capable. Bright. Potential. With his words, Mr. Cupal opened up a whole new world when he shined his light on me. I began to see myself in new terms.

    Thank God for Mr. Cupal. Two days later, I told my parents I wanted to go to college. Because of his speech, I began to believe I had what it took to be an academic success. Now I am a college professor.

    Years later, when I wrote my book, I had a book signing party at the local bookstore. And who do you think was the first person to show up? Mr. Cupal. Bless you, Mr. Cupal, and all teachers who teach with love.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mr Sam

    Ninety nine percent of teachers are loving & caring teachers. They have to overcome all the diversities in the classroom that is of no fault of their own. More then half of teachers spend twelve hours at school, though paid for eight & then go home to do more to prepare for class.They spend hundreds & even thousands out of their pockets for supplies & equipment not furnished & to make sure kids are fed. For every obese child there is one that does not get enough to eat. When you see a teacher, you need to at least thank her/him if not praise. If you don't believe what I say here take time to volunteer a day in your child's classroom & you will get your eyes opened wide. I did & I did.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. George

    The count of good public school teahers is so long, it's impossible to put down names. From first grade through highschool, most of my teachers were engaged and working at getting me engaged in learning. They were successful. I still live in the same community, and now my son is experiencing the next generation of teachers, and they are just as committed as mine were. They (and the school administration) have to struggle with funding and staffing issues, but thier dedication is without doubt.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pa_BeAsT_1128_

    My teachers are horrible 🙂

    October 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • ET

      You may not be the best student either. You get out of something what you put into it.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      maybe because you're a lazy and inattentive student?

      October 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Salina, KS MOM

    My son is autistic and his first couple of years in public school were a nightmare. Mrs. Bartz stepped into the position of Special Ed Teacher and Noah has done great!! Mrs. Bartz and "The Para's" have done a lot for my son and she deserves everything she gets. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher for my son these past years. he is now in 4th grade and Mr. Michaels is his 4th grade teacher and Noah has taken a liking to his classroom. He makes the class so exciting and fast pace that Noah stays interested in the class. Noah loves school, and loves learning, and it is thanks to these special teachers... Thank you for all you do!!!! and for putting up with the shenanigans that Noah can sometimes pull.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    Give me a break, teachers have the biggest scam going and they do it hiding behind our kids. Take for example a teacher works on average 6 hours a day, in classes where a student rotates between classes that average work day drops to 3.6 hours a day. Next fact, a teacher works an average of 160 days a year, the average citizen works 240 days per year. Oh, these teachers have it bad alright. Consider that when you take the average teacher salary and put it as an hourly wage they earn $30.00 per hour, add in benefits and it climbs to $42.00 per hour.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • PJ

      That's what you see on the surface. For every hour in class, a teacher puts in two or more at home at night and on the weekend preparing. In the summer, we take seminars and prepare for the new school year. Scam? You have a nerve! There is no way they could pay me for every hour I spend working. And when I am not working on stuff, I am searching the web for information, thinking about how to improve lessons and reviewing videos to use in the classroom. By the way, Jim, if you can read and write (and I assume you can since you made a reply to this story) THANK A TEACHER!

      October 19, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim (no relation)

      Jim, I know I won't change you mindset about the "scam" teachers are pulling off. But I would like to point out some things that apply to the way I do my job. Please be do not lump everyone together so easily. Like any profession, I admit there are some educators that take advantage of the situation. But I can only imagine that happens all over the place. I can only speak for and defend myself. I arrive daily at school at 6:30 am and leave no earlier than 4:00pm. I use this time to be available to tutor students that are seeking help outside the classroom. I also tutor during my lunch time (35 minutes) as some students have transportation issues that prohibit them from coming early or staying late. I typically spend 30 minutes to 2 hours at home working on curriculum development or grading papers. there are some evenings when I am caught up, but they are few and far between. So on an average day, I spend between 9-11 hours with my work. Yes, I work a contract of 183 days. I do enjoy the time off so I can "recharge" myself. But for the past 24 years I have also been coaching multiple sports at the high school level. Yes, we receive a stipend for this, but when accounting for the hours of practice, games, weightroom, dealing with equipment issues, and off-season clinics and training, the last time I calculated it I received about 22 cents an hour for my coaching. (Great scam, huh?) I admit, my profession has some perks, but it also has its challenges. I chose this career 23 years ago because I love working with young people, helping them grow and develop, and seeing them turn into young men and women. I have had some go wrong but I have also seen far more become fine people, parents, and citizens themselves. I did not choose this career for the money or vacation hours. If that was my goal, I would have become a physician or an attorney. By the way, do you begrudge them their high salaries?(Much higher than mine.)

      October 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kathy

      Jim, It is obvious that you have not spent much time as an adult in a school.

      If you were to follow a teacher for a week, you might very well be exhausted. A teacher's job never ends. We get into the classroom early to prepare class materials, we stay late at work to help a student, meet with parents, clean up classrooms. We stay up until midnight or later grading and preparing for the lessons the next day. We are charged with teaching kids to read and understand math and history. We are expected to detect and evaluate learning disabilities. We have to discipline and teach respect and manners. We have to explain to parents why we assign homework, even though it means more work for us teachers. We bring home worries about individual students and about classes of student.

      Jim, I challenge you to volunteer for a week at a K-12 school near you as a teacher's assistant. I think you'll have a very different view at the end of that week. You might even think this: These teachers must do this out of passion and love, because the money and work hours are not enough to compensate them for all they do.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • scott

      If it is so easy and a scam.. why do most 50% quit before reaching the 5 year mark? It is a far harder a job than you can imagine.. Like every other teacher critic.. you have no idea what you are talking about and wouldn't last a week guy..

      October 19, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      PJ, Pam and Kathy your points on time spent after work, on the weekends etc... can be said for every profession. I am a logistics manager, I work 12 hour days and still have presentations I have to prepare for after work and on weekends, but I do not get half the year off or between 3.9 and 6.4 hour work days. I attended school in the Los Angeles school system and I can tell you that the vast majority took very little interest in their kids. I now live in Michigan and have kids in school and I can tell you it is like pulling teeth to get time with a teacher, sure if I can come to the school between 1 and 2 I might get to talk with one, but after that they are beating the kids out the door.

      I do not disute there are few teachers that honor their profession, however they are few. Perhaps if the teacher unions would insist on cleaning up their ranks instead of defending them at the expense of our kids I would have a better impression. I have a hard time accepting the class size arguement for K-12, yest immediately after leaving high school all of a sudden class size is not an issue, our kids go to a class with 200 student, one professor who does not know, nor care who has attended or not – the only care is who paid their bloated tuition.

      If teachers want respect, start with putting kids first, force your union to clean up their ranks and get the bads ones out. Will this happen? Absolutely not, unions are self serving damn our kids.

      October 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Current Teacher

      It's amazing that anyone can say teachers have a great "scam" going. I mean these days not only are we responsible for teaching, but feeding and taking care of the children because so many are not getting everything they need at home. GOOD teachers don't just put in 6 hours a day, many work late into the evenings, weekends and their vacations to make sure every child in their classroom is successful. As for how much money we make, please take into account how much we spend out of our pocket to make sure every kid in our class has the supplies they need to be successful. It's no wonder how stressful my job as a teacher is after reading such an ignorant comment. IF teaching is such a walk in the park, please come and truly TAKE CARE of all the students in my class...I would love to see it!

      October 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Current Teacher: You mention ignorant, yet you appear to be full of excuses. The facts cannot be disputed, every time "the contract" is up for renewal, as is typical of any union, teachers demand more. There is no regard for the medium income for the area. You excuse away the fact that you work less than half the year but praise yourself for caring for kids, yet if you truly cared the unions would not have reduced the school year so much. Every profession has its demands outside the job, the difference is most people cannot hide behind kids to get what they want.

      Tell me "Oh Caring One," why does the teacher unions demand more on every contract, at the expense of the local homeowners, where these kids come from when you know you already exceed the local income? If you cared for kids, why would teachers not demand that incompetent ones get weeded out? Why would unions demand more and more days off when our kids need more time in school?

      October 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Hi Jim,

      Just a clarification for you, most teachers work 180 days a year (some more/less). Even though you stated they work 160 days a year they are quite the deal for the services they provide. I pay $1400 a month for daycare for my two children. It works out to about $10 an hour for each kid for the month based on how long they are at the facility (they don't stay all day everyday thanks to their grandparents once a week). Anyway, I would argue that the average teachers deals with at least 25 kids an hour, so lets pay them a whopping $5 an hour per kid and just have them "babysit." Obviously, it adds up very quickly and you'll be quite surprised that the average teacher should be making ($125 per hour x 6 hours of work (contact time with students) x 160 days of work (your figure) $120,000. Your quote of $40-50 is per class, not student. To me, paying a teacher $50,000 in salary plus benefits is a steal for the service they provide. Be careful for what you ask for! Teachers provide a service far superior than my daycare, yet demand far less pay...It's a bargain!

      October 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Scott: I can assure you that most teachers, when faced with having to put in just an 8 hour day, would have a difficult time in corporate america. If you tried to meet the standards of other white collar professions the demand would be far greater than an 8 hour day, and oh, by the way you dont get a break every hour and you are held accountable to your job performance. A client fails, you fail. Yet in our school system, teachers are insulated from failure, nope it is the childs fault. The parents fault. Societies fault. Everybody elses fault except the teacher.

      October 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Chris: You are so self focused, the "Poor Me" battle cry truly is not going to work for you. The average working person within school districts also have da care expenses so that they too can go to work. As for the 160 day work schedule, you point out that you work 180, some other more some less – that is why I mentioned "Average."

      As for a $50,000 salary being a steal, well that would be a typical union arguement. In the real world value for service is dependent on the return, not the time put in or effort exerted. The fact is our kids fall behind every year, even though education funding and union benefits increase. The fact is, despite a steady increase in funding since the Ford administration student performance has been stagnet or has dropped. The only way you can sell an arguement for higher pay and benefits is through performance, that performance is based solely on how well kids do in class.

      October 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tia

      Jim, I am truly sorry that you are so miserable with your own life that you have nothing better to do than tell the world how much you hate teachers, especially in an iReports article about teachers that have touched their students lives. Perhaps instead of being jealous of the "scam" that teachers are pulling, you should try to improve your own situation since what a teacher does or does not do in their job clearly has nothing to do with you.

      October 20, 2010 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Jenni

      Dear Jim,

      I am a teacher... I rise at 5:00am each morning and am at school by 6:30am each morning. I work with students before school begins and afterschool ends. I walk out the door most days at 5:00pm and then go home to my family where I often put in several hours critiquing the lessons that I taught that day going over and over in my mind how I could reach another student.

      I am a teacher... I seek out professional development and attend trainings and conferences on my own money. When I don't have paper for the copier – I buy it. When I don't have instruments, pencils, white boards markers, books, and the equipment that my students need I buy it myself or spend many hours writing grants. When students walk into my room hungry because they haven't had breakfast – I feed them.

      I am a teacher... but I am more than a teacher to my students. I give my students my time, hope, love, support, ecouragement. I advocate for my students. I try to give them experiences outside of their normal environment. I am passionate about creating a true learning environment where my students are accepted for who they are and are appreciated for the unique thoughts and ideas that they bring to the table. I am passionate about allowing my students to "learn by doing."

      I am a teacher... I teach a subject which is deemed by many to be frivolous or unnessary. Most think that music is not a core subject area in the school day. I fight a constant battle to show others that mine is a subject that is not only necessary but vital to a child's education. I back up every lesson I do with research, curriculum, and pedagogy – but still each year there are jobs like mine that come up on the chopping block.

      I am a teacher... I don't belong to a union – there isn't one in my state. I have a bachelors & masters as well as several national certifications but at the end of the day I make $34,000! I will never ever make $50,000 – it's not in our salary schedule. Everyday I teach for 8 class periods and get less than 25 minutes to eat my lunch. I willing do lunch duty & recess duty. I am lucky to get planning time in my schedule!

      I am a teacher... yes, I get time off during the summer – unpaid time off. It is my choice that I have my salary spread out over 12 months. This past school year the summer break was 8 weeks (a little less than two months). For two solid weeks I took a certification course that I paid for myself so that I could continue to grow as a teacher. For another two weeks I went into my classroom to prepare for the coming school year... I wrote curriculum, set up lessons, wrote grants, and applied for technology.

      I am a teacher... there are many in the corporate world who devalue what I do each day. There are many in my own profession who give being a teacher a bad name. I have taught in hostile conditions, had guns brought into my school, had students who have seen their mother, father, brother murdered in front of them – yet they are in school the next day. Yet each day I do what I do – I teach – and I do it because I love my students.

      I am honored to be... a teacher.

      October 22, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MLCW

    I had may great teachers as a young student growing up, I also had great coaches. Because I loved and played sports my coaches who were also teachers made the biggest impact on my life, teaching me life lessons like you can acheive anything you set your mind too if you work really really really hard. There is no I in the word Team. Life lessons that apply to every aspect of my lfie now. Thanks Coach Downs, Coach Burley, Coach Shim. I also had a counselor in junior high who was really into the lives of his students, my dad was in a local news paper for his job and the counselor cut our the paper clipping and mailed it to me after I'd been out of junior high for like 10 years, Thanks Mr. Holzer. I know that it takes a village to raise a child, thank you to all of the teachers who do so much for all the children in our nation.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gina

    Ms. Langpap!! 5th Grade teacher. I was in her last class at the end of her 50 year career. The best til the end! Mr. Fitzpatrick, Ms. Sorenson, and Mrs. Barkawi who inspired me to be a teacher. And, of course, my own parents. My mom taught elementary for 39 years and my dad was a high school teacher for over 25.

    They all served as examples for the teacher I want to be.

    Thank you all for what you do! There are way more spectacular teachers out there than sub- par teachers.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Crystal

    Mr. Mark Chapman from Northside School in Fairport, NY was and always will be the teacher who stands out most in my childhood. He was my fourth grade teacher, and he made learning fun and made his students excited to come to school each day. Beyond that, he went out of his way on his own time to protect me from a bully that was threatening me at my afternoon bus stop. I will never forget the lessons he taught me that year.
    Mrs. Wendy Exner, Mrs. Ulla McClintock, and Mrs. Kim Jeffers from Parkview Elementary in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and Mrs. Roxy Stewart formerly of Korger Chestnut School in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, are four teachers who changed my son's life forever. Once trapped in the prison of autism, these four women worked tirelessly to give him the best education and school experience ever provided. Their love and patience transformed my son into a happy, funny, caring young man. I wish there was a way I could thank them that would truly reflect what they have done for us.

    Teachers can change lives. These five teachers in my life have changed mine.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JN

    Jane Kenyon at Manhattan High School in Manhattan, KS is a GREAT English teacher. She had my son for 10th grade English and challenged him to read and understand, write well and discuss and listen with an open mind. He loved her class and learned a lot. She created a supportive atmosphere where students could discuss issues in a positive way–we were so grateful that he could have a teacher of her caliber!

    October 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ronnie Kauffman

    I couldn't pick just one teacher from Van Gorder Elementary School here in Sparks, NV. This is a public shot out to Mrs. Burnett and Mr. Davis, my daughter's 1st grade teachers! And another shot out goes to kindergarten teacher Mrs. Lee! All three show great enthusiasm for their students. My daughter is getting a top rate education at this school! Thank you for everything you do for your students!

    October 19, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Laura

    I work with some of the best teachers! I teach high school science in California and the politics of teaching are there and weigh on us heavily. But....my science department is a collaborative group. We plan curriculum together. We eat lunch together. We are there for each other. This keeps our morale up for what is the most important part of teaching–the students. They really are my pride and joy. With my happy students I can try my hardest, with my colleagues to make change in the lives of what should be our most important assets in society today....our children

    October 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sharon

    I know, I'm 4 hours late, but I would be remiss if I didn't recognize this teacher. Ms. Farris (anne Arundel County Schools, Maryland) taught my autistic child for 2nd and 3rd grade and I can honestly say that I can credit all of her acedemic successes from that point on to this teacher. It was her first time with an autistic student, they told me, but she faced the challenge head on, and when something wasn't right, she would call me and ask what she should do about it. Sometimes, the answer was nothing, but she was willing to ask. Sometimes, I would call with a problem, and she would have the answer. She took my child from the kid that spent most of her time screaming and crying in the empty class next door in K/1st grade to the autistic child that is mainstreamed for all her classes, that has learned to identify what overstimulates her and to communicate that. She has turned my child from the stereotypical poster child for autism that most of america has in their mind, to the little girl that people tell me they wouldn't know had a problem if someone hadn't told them. If your child is lucky enough to have Ms. Farris for a teacher, then you know that you have the best head start you could possibly give them. The difference is that she cares, and that she is willing to actually communicate. She isn't jaded, she wants to know how to help each child in the way that works best for him, and if you can give her more tools to do that, than thats even better. I wish we could have kept her through 12th grade!

    October 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lew

    Katie Euckert-Jordan. Carlsbad, California. She never says no to any student. They all adore her and they should as she is a great role model. If they were all like Katie, there wouldn't be a problem. She starts at 6:30am and leaves at 4pm. She's also a mother of 2. I am truly amazed by all successful teachers – thank you!

    October 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bill Kilpatrick

    Bruce R. Magata was an orchestra teacher in Tucson, Arizona who made a huge difference in my life. My parents were divorced, my father was out of work and my decision to take up the violin wasn't a huge hit in my blue-collar neighborhood. Yet Mr. Magata offered nothing but patience and encouragement. Seeing something in me, he tutored me on the side, even when my father couldn't afford the lessons. With his help, I took first violin, second chair, beating out 7th, 8th and 9th graders. The only exception was a girl who had been playing since the age of four. I never went on to become a professional musician, but as a teacher (in my 12th year), I considered Mr. Magata my gold standard for what a teacher should be.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10