As a parent, I constantly assess and appraise the quality of my kid’s educators. Teachers with degrees from Ivy League colleges and boast exceptional experience undoubtedly impress me. By expecting so much from teachers and their undying devotion to our offspring, we also need to express our deepest gratitude to these special individuals who help shape our kids

It’s easy to forget the impact teachers have on kids, especially when these kids gain confidence and maintain decent grades. We forget that it may have something to do with the school they study in or the support that comes from behind the scenes. When our kids do not perform, we easily blame the school, teachers or even the system. Being a parent of just two kids can be difficult, so I can’t imagine a class full of kids demanding my attention for eight (or more) hours a day. Teachers provide not only educational support but foster our kid’s passion for certain subjects. Self-esteem can blossom with the right educators who see the glimmer of potential within our kids.

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Many famous names have given credit to their teachers for helping mould them into who they are today. Bill Gates famously thanked his math teacher Fred Wright for pushing him a little harder. Colin Firth even brought his drama teacher, Penny Edwards, to collect an award with him at the House of Parliament. Teachers Day is commemorated this month, so my question is: can you think of who helped give you that boost in confidence or instilled that love and passion for a certain subject? It is so easy to forget the educators who tirelessly pour their hearts into the job year in and year out as their students and pupils transition, grow older (and hopefully wiser) and finally evolve into the product of their making.

The Teacher That Shaped Me

I was the kid at the back of the class. I was nervous, hated public speaking, didn’t really have confidence in myself or my abilities. I had loving and wonderful parents and an amazing school with fantastic educators. Yet somehow my 15-year-old self didn’t see all that, appreciate it or believed in myself. I tormented myself by comparing how I looked, dressed, spoke, and evaluated myself to every other student around me.

Yet there was one thing I did do well, and that was swim. When I first tried out for the school’s swim team I was petrified, but remember my father encouraging me to just try, describing lifelong friends I would make and comradery that I would learn to rely on.

Luckily, I scraped by and made the team, and year after year I persevered, tried out and soon swimming was my life. I spent every other day practising with the team, and the days I didn’t train, were spent lifeguarding while the weekends were consumed with teaching swimming.

I was literally submerged in water, and looking back, as captain of the team, I remember it being the highlight of my school life.

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Yet there was someone who was incredibly special, and a powerful force that was guiding me every day at the pool. The same person who coached the team taught me to be a lifeguard, and swim coach, but most importantly to believe in myself and the talent I did have.

Her name was Lisa File. She was tough, strong, kind, loving and the driving force that made me return every year to try out for the team. She believed in me when I was just 13 and trying out for the school team, and she was with me at 18 when I graduated as captain. She even visited Singapore just a few years ago on holiday and watched my daughter in her swim class.

I told her years ago that it was her belief and support in me, and her ability to see my potential, even when I couldn’t, that shaped me. I can’t thank her enough. When she joined Facebook years ago, I remember reaching out and updating her on my life and where I landed up. She was still encouraging and loving and when I saw her in person after more than 18 years, I knew I owed her an abundance of gratitude and love. I tearily explained what an incredible impact she had on me growing up.

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Thank from Your Heart

For some, reaching into our memory files to analyse who has helped and shaped us can be cumbersome, maybe even awkward. Especially in an Asian context, where thanking doesn’t always come easily, especially when expressing it in words. But I encourage you to try.

Think of that teacher, the one who gave you a little encouragement or who taught you something about yourself. Reach out to them, send them an email, write a letter. Be magnanimous when you thank. Reach all the way into your heart and extract all the feelings that that person conjures us with you. Don’t hold back. Expressing gratitude releases feel-good hormones, it will make you feel happy just articulating to someone what they have done for you.

I can’t thank Lisa File enough for what she has done for me. She believed in me when I didn’t even see my own potential. She fought for me to stay on the team when my grades dropped and encouraged me to work harder. She pushed me and supported me unconditionally for many years. That is a gem of a teacher, just one in a million.

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