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Taking a moment to #ThankATeacher

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist

This week, May 8–12, is Teacher Appreciation Week. We love Teacher Appreciation Week, but really, we feel it should be every week. Educators give us so much. They listen to our problems, our ideas, and our random thoughts. They serve as role models and counselors. They push us to become our best possible selves. While we can’t thank every educator enough, Teacher Appreciation Week serves as a nice time to reflect and show gratitude to the educators in our lives for everything they do.

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked our employees and Renaissance Royals community to share their memories of educators who had profound impacts on their lives. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites from the Renaissance Royals community below:

Rita Platt, Teacher/Librarian – St. Croix Falls School District

So many teachers have had an impact on me, but one in particular stands out. Mrs. Rita Refner was my tenth-grade driver’s ed teacher. The minute I saw her, I knew I would love her. Curly hair, a yellow scarf, pink lipstick, jean skirt, and yellow rain boots. She had a perky tone and gave students the same offer at the end of every class: “If anyone would care for a cup of tea, feel free to stop by!” To sum it up, Mrs. Refner was different, unique, quirky, and cool. One day I decided to take her up on her offer and stopped by for a cup of tea. That day, Mrs. Refner told me about how she had lost her husband to a crash with a drunk driver the year before. I asked her how she remained so positive. Her response, “What else am I going to do?” Her sense of personal style, her incredible outlook, her kind heart, and her, well, her downright out-there coolness inspired me! I knew that there were lots of ways I wanted to emulate Mrs. Ref, as I came to call her. And I did. Thanks, in part to her example, I wasn’t as troubled by my own unique qualities in high school as I might have been. Mrs. Ref showed me that being different is not only okay, it is wonderful.

Laura Reyes, Teacher – Rialto Unified School District

Many years ago, back in Mexico, sixth graders didn’t have a chance to go on to higher education. After the sixth grade, school was done because there weren’t any teachers willing to teach. My last day of sixth grade, my elementary teachers, led by Sr. Ruperto Ortiz and Sr. Gustavo Vaquera, announced that they would volunteer to teach seventh grade. The classes were from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. I was in that group of students. Thanks to them, I was able to finish seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. Years later, other teachers helped me get my teacher’s credentials.

Carly Schwartz, Teacher – Caldwell County Schools

I was never a good student. In the 60s, reading problems like dyslexia were not addressed the way they are today. By the time I graduated high school, I was done with school. Sadly, I can’t share a heartwarming story about a teacher who made a positive difference. I could share stories of a different sort. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I became interested in education. I certainly didn’t want their experience to be like mine. I enrolled in a program for people interested in working daycare. It was intensive. I always did my homework and came to class prepared, unlike many others. One day I was venting my frustration for being the only one in the group who came prepared. The instructor said something to me that changed my life. She said that I should help those who were not gifted students like myself. I still remember how stunned I felt. Her comment caused me to reassess who I was and what I might be capable of. She empowered me with confidence to enroll in college and go on to get a degree in education so that I might empower others.

Do you have an educator who made an impact on your life? Let us know in the comments! For more heartwarming stories, head over to our Teacher Appreciation Week page. And seriously, thank you from each one of us at Renaissance. We appreciate you!

Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet is the communications specialist at Renaissance. He has been with the company since 2015 and can be found crafting anything from a press release to a tweet. In his spare time, Ken enjoys spending time with his friends, lifting, and making trips to the Frozen Tundra to cheer on the Green Bay Packers.


  1. Sandra Cunningham says:

    My 5th grade teacher really pushed and inspired me to work hard. The lessons were interactive, current with what was going in the world and meaningful to me. I used a few lessons later when I started teaching the impact was the same for my students.

  2. Lisa Capon says:

    Thanks to all of the great teachers that I have crossed paths with over the years. You have inspired and influenced me to become the teacher I am today.

  3. Emily Heitke says:

    I am so thankful we have better special education services than what was available in the 60’s!

  4. Rita Platt says:

    These are lovely tributes!

  5. David Keech says:

    In addition to my junior high math teacher, Mrs. Breidenstein, there are so many teachers that have stood out. Mr. Severing, High School Choir, Mr. Runyon, 4th grade, Mrs. Behar, middle school choir, and Mrs. Peterman, algebra teacher are among those I fondly remember. I cannot imagine becoming a teacher had it not been for my sister, Cheryl Cook, who put up with me growing up. She had the patience of a saint., and is an outstanding teacher .All of the teachers I have learned from in my 29 years of teaching have shaped me. Special thanks go out to educators who shaped my teaching: John Henneman, Dan Rayburn, Brian Kalish, and Tammy St. Myers stand out and are outstanding teachers worthy of my deepest respect. To the teachers that helped shape learning for my daughters, kudos to you. A very well deserved note of thanks to everyone in the Wisconsin Rapids School District for playing a part in educating my daughters. Thanks to all!

  6. Ami Edwards says:

    I had several high school teachers that made a difference for me.

  7. Jody Steinhaus says:

    Currently, I work with one of the most amazing educators who is transitioning into a principalship in a neighboring district. She is an old soul who is wise beyond her years, dynamic, child-centered, diplomatic, and effective. A true educational leader in every sense of the word. Children and peers will run through walls for her because they feel respected and appreciated. I am thankful for the time I have had to learn as much as I can from her.

  8. Emily Ballard says:

    I had a teacher in high school who changed my thinking on math and made it more interesting and do-able. I then went on to become and educator/math teacher.

  9. Megan says:

    I had several educators who profoundly influenced my life, but my fifth-grade teacher stands out. He was unflaggingly positive and curious and made students feel like explorers of the world – we dropped everything to go out in the fog one day and, unbeknownst to us, learned a lot about clouds. I remember a solar eclipse, and learning to diagram sentences, and everything was done with a sense of wonder.

  10. S.Bellomo says:

    I have been so fortunate to have had a great mentor in Accelerated Reading. Her name is Wendy F. and she is absolutely the cornerstone for the programs we have today at our school. I appreciate her continued guidance and input.

  11. Virginia Wiedenfeld says:

    Thank you for sharing these special teacher’s favorite teacher! It is teacher such as these which gave all great teachers their foundation.

  12. Stacey Painter says:

    The teacher that made a difference for me was actually our librarian. She would read us books during library and inspired me to want to read.

  13. Wesley Miller says:

    interesting read

  14. LeeAnn says:

    I can honestly say that every one of my teachers through school taught me well. It may have been intentional or not. It may have been positive or not. Thank you Ethel Cooper, 1st grade for being so tough and strict. I laugh now about the number of times we all got whacked by a ruler for some minor infraction, but really, she wanted to best for us. Thank you, Effie Materi, Coronado High School for writing BS on my essay. You were the first teacher to ever call my hand on reading a novel. Thank you, Mom and grandmother Rufus for being teachers and leading me into this impossible, wonderful, stressful, taxing, unappreciated, best job in the world.

  15. Jamye Jaco says:

    My favorite teacher had us on the floor around her rocking chair reading to us all the time. I think that was where I got my love of reading. She read everything, even the bible. That was back in the 70’s then we could do things like that. She loved us all, or so she said… It was a magical time!

  16. Beth Weeks says:

    Very powerful story Carly! I love that I get to work with several teachers that stop and think about each individual student and meet them where they are!

  17. Virginia Travis says:

    Rosemond Brown from St. Petersburg, Florida was my fourth grade teacher. She always made learning fun and encouraged my creative writing!

  18. alisha king says:

    #ThankaTeacher I would love to thank MANY teachers for having a hand in my education and for encouraging me to become a teacher to help others. I want to thank Ms. Luce, for telling me I could be anything I wanted to be. She helped me develop my writing, and I still model my writing workshops after hers. I Want to thank Mr. Sanders for giving me a love of history and for helping me know that it’s about how you deliver the content vs. just telling facts. I want to thank Mr. Francis for showing me that teachers should care about students and their well being. He helped me learn that students are more than just a test score. Finally, My college professor Dr. Lori Meier truly challenged me to think outside the box as an educator. She modeled how a responsive and democratic classroom should look, and that is exactly how I run my own class now.

  19. Lloyd Goldberg says:

    Mr. Zechariah my high school history teacher and track coach is the reason I becta teacher. Through humor, respect, and the occasional kick in the rear he always showed me I had value as a student and a person. No matter my grades or attitude he never gave up on me, and even went so far as to force me into academic decathlon and signed me up for interviews with military recruiters to show me my other options. It was his unwavering support that showed me teachers truly can care about the kids and we matter more than we think.

  20. Laura Quiroz says:

    I would like to thank all the teachers at Anaya Elementary in Pharr, Texas for working with their students every day. It’s not always easy but well worth the impact they will leave in each child’s education.

  21. Carly says:

    I am humbled to have my story shared. The only thing I would add is that no one is ever too old to go back to school. Always encourage others to pursue their dreams.

  22. Sheila Shaffer says:

    I had the advantage of attending a high school that was one of the first in the state to receive the national Excellence in Education award. I can say honestly that I didn’t really learn anything in college I didn’t already know until my junior year.

    One of the most notable teachers I had was Ms. Winter, one of my math teachers. Even back then (early 70s), she understood that students needed to talk about the math we were doing. I don’t remember being lectured in her class; what i do remember is a lot of work being done on the chalkboard and a lot of discussion surrounding that work. She helped create my belief that math is a puzzle and every year you progress through it, more of the puzzle reveals itself!

  23. Doug Abend says:

    Mrs. Gossage. She ran a tight ship and all was calm and bright.

  24. Meredith Sanders says:

    Mrs. Johnston, my first grade teacher, helped foster my love for reading. She had a giant purple bathtub and orange tractor tire in her room for a special reading area. She lit up the room with her smile, and could make a hush fall over the room with one look. She loved and encouraged every student who walked through the door. She is one of the reasons that I became a teacher.

  25. Mary Brown says:

    I had a first grade teacher who will always be close to my heart. One day, during that year, my hometown was flooded and roads were impassable. My parents were stuck and unable to get me from school.. Being the last child there at school, I remember my teacher took me home with her until my parents were able to reach me. I will never forget her caring kindness which solidified my desire to become a caring teacher for young people

  26. Donna Nichols says:

    I had a wonderful family but a teacher made more of a difference in the person I became then my parents did. I went into teaching to make that kind of powerful difference in the lives of my students.

  27. guy swentek says:

    NONE of my teachers can believe this guy/class clown became a teacher!

  28. Sharla Voepel says:

    Mrs. Leonard, my high school English teacher, taught me that is was okay to think outside the box.

  29. Sarah Swanzy says:

    Mrs. Moore, my first grade teacher. She made a huge difference in my life! She helped me learn to love reading.

  30. Shannon says:

    Thank you Mrs. Rowe. She taught me in fourth grade at Cohassete Street School in Van Nuys. She cared and it went a long way!

  31. Laura says:

    Thanks to all the great teachers out there!

  32. Katherine Williams says:

    I can only think of a very few teachers that I ever had that were NOT wonderful. So many of my teachers believed in me, loved me, and made me give my very best. I appreciate all of them so much and accredit who I am today to the support that they provided me along the way.

  33. Alecia Walkuski says:

    My high school English teacher, Mr. Walsh, inspired me to become a teacher. He always made class fun and interesting, and he shared his own writing with us. He continued to be supportive when I started college too. He was a phenomenal teacher!

  34. Brenda Curtis says:

    So many great teachers in my life!! As I look back at elementary school, it is always the read-aloud books I remember about a teacher. When Mrs. Ford cried at the end of “Where the Red Fern Grows”, I cried also! We had a substitute I loved that brought a really old book about Lila Lizard, that I always thought was fun. I now go to rooms and read books to share my love of literature to young minds!

  35. Kelly Barr says:

    My high school band teacher is what inspired me to become a teacher.

  36. Dvawn Maza says:

    My chemistry teacher was very encouraging!

  37. Jessica says:

    I had a teacher in 3rd grade who constantly push me and really sparked my imagination. She really made learning a lot of fun.

  38. Kayla Dawson says:

    My best teacher was a teacher that had faith in me. I had a prior teacher that had really made me feel like I wasn’t capable of learning much. Then I went into this new teacher’s room and she was like a ray of sunshine. She had faith in my ability and really made me feel like I could do anything that I put my mind to. It’s amazing what one teacher can do!

  39. Heidi says:

    Mrs. B was probably my most influential teacher. I learned so much from her.

  40. Jennifer Bunn says:

    Both of my grandmas were teachers and have an amazing outlook on life. How I could I not want to be like them?

  41. Kimberly Bell says:

    There are too many influential teachers in my life to name just one. Thank you to all of them for making me the teacher I am today!

  42. Andrea Wendt says:

    Mrs. Fuzi will always stay close to my heart! She was an inspiration from the first time I set foot in her classroom. Her bright smile, attentiveness in the classroom, willingness to help every student learn, and challenges given were reasons why I excelled in her room and became a teacher myself. Thank you Mrs. Fuzi for being an inspiration!

  43. Karen says:

    My co-worker Alecia W, because she always pushes me to be rigorous and challenging for our students.

  44. I loved and admired so many of my teachers. Today, I most appreciate and admire my coworkers. I work in a Catholic school and we all work to support and encourage each other. The amount of love and support from these teachers is what keeps me teaching. I love you all!

  45. Darlene Christianson says:

    My music teacher encouraged me to stick with piano. She is the reason I am a piano teacher today.

  46. Heidi says:

    Mrs. Midgett for encouraging my daughter to step outside her comfort zone!

  47. Jeff Plank says:

    I had great role models in the education field, so I would like to thank them for all they have done for me. They made a huge impact on me.