Celebrating My Favorite Teachers During Teacher Appreciation Week

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The first full week of May is designated as National Teacher Appreciation Week which allows us the opportunity to celebrate teachers for all the wonderful work they do on the clock and off the clock. Teachers are superheroes who don’t get the credit and support they deserve.

I’ve had the most amazing teachers. AMAZING teachers!! I want to specifically celebrate a few of them.

As a senior in high school, my third-grade teacher hired me as a tutor for the after-school program at my elementary school. I was torn between becoming a social worker or a teacher after graduation and although I elected to pursue social work first, I have also become a teacher. I love teaching because I have had such awesome teachers. Twenty years of my social work career were also spent working in school-based social service and public health programs.

I talked to my pre-kindergarten teacher on the phone recently. I LOVE her. Although she hasn’t taught me since I was 4 years old, I know that she did then and does now, love me too. She made me her classroom helper and individualized my work based on my skills. She encouraged me to lead – even at 4 years old. When I graduated sixth grade she was there. When she met my daughter when my daughter was about 4 years-old she said, “I know she is as smart as you were at her age”. She loved on both of us that day. She taught me how to encourage, how to listen, and how to teach. I believe that my pre-kindergarten teacher and my kindergarten teacher have been best friends for at least 50 years. I absolutely love my kindergarten teacher too. I’ve been able to reconnect with her as well – especially on social media. She has supported my annual foster drives. The impact they had on my life and love of learning is invaluable.

My junior high school principal called my home himself on the first day of 7th grade to inquire why I was not in school. He was unaware that I was enrolled in private school for that one year. He became my principal in 8th grade when I went back to public school. He knew us all by name. He made us go back to our lockers if we left school at the end of the day without books and drove through the neighborhoods to check on his students. He was our Joe Clark before we ever saw the movie Lean On Me.  

My 10th grade English teacher reinforced my love of writing and encouraged me to become a journalist. She challenged me to think critically and express my opinions. You are now reading my blog. I invite you to check out the Conversations with Nicki Sanders category for various interviews with teens and adults.

My 11th grade Social Studies/Humanities teacher has been encouraging and supporting me for three decades. We call him ‘The Motivator’. He brought the real world into the classroom. I called him for advice before enrolling my daughter in pre-kindergarten. He invited me to sit on a panel for one of his book launches. He helped me navigate school system challenges in my previous role. Last year he answered the call to tutor when I had a friend in need. I was following his lead and teaching “Humanities” as a group and workshop facilitator before officially becoming a college professor who teaches Human Relations and Sociology courses.

Nicki Sanders, MSW, CEO, is a Career and Empowerment Strategist who helps high-performing women of color in management go from overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated to energized, well paid, and appreciated. Through Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, she also helps businesses recruit, hire, train, and retain great employees. Nicki has an extensive background in developing and managing successful programs and leading high-functioning multi-disciplinary teams. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life she loves. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.

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