The heroism of Teaching and how a teacher saved me

The recent school shooting in Connecticut, draws attention to one of the noblest, selfless, yet underappreciated professions in our society; teachers. One would be remiss not to recall how a teacher has motivateImaged them to push the envelope to reach plateaus that might not have been reached otherwise.

Any attempt to make sense out of the insanity that ensued in Connecticut would be a exercise in futility, it was nothing short of overwhelming to read the headlines from the massacre, after a couple of minutes I got to a point where I had to cut off the TV, but it was the selfless actions of the teachers that lost their lives in the act of putting the interests of their students before themselves that spoke volumes. It was in my opinion, nothing short of inspirational.

Considering that we have days that honor our Presidents’, Veteran’s, Mother’s, Father’s and etc; why isn’t it a day that we set aside to honor those in the teaching profession? In lieu of how people in this honorable profession are sometimes castigated (especially during the confines of labor negotiations) I think that it is an idea whose time has come.

When you step back and think about it, considering the host of seemingly inconsequential actions involving a teacher that changed the trajectory of our lives, consider the “what if’s for a moment… Teachers are essential and are often cultivators of our deepest aspirations.
We often cheat the most inspirational people in our life, simply because we opt not to share the pivotal role(s) that they’ve played in our respective lives. More often than not, it is necessary that we echo back, so that they can repeat the process with someone else, like they did with us. We are human and sometimes it is necessary for us to hear the accolades, if only to let us know that our actions aren’t in vain.

As for me, my high school English teacher Ms. Batorfalvy did that for me, In lieu of my being a disciplinary terror from the time that I was in the 5th grade until she and I crossed paths in my freshman year. She saw something redeeming in a young man that was angry at the world. I don’t think that it would be a stretch of imagination to call her heroic, because in retrospect I presented significant challenge in being likable to many teachers that had me as a student up to that point. To be totally honest, if I could violate the laws of physics and augment time and space, I would be inclined to go back and punch the young me in the face, just for being a rotten kid, but that is an entirely different story.

Admittedly Ms. Batorfalvy and I didn’t get off on the right foot, I was given the boot out of her class more times than I care to remember, endured countless trips to the Assistant Principal’s office, multiple conferences with my parents, along with a couple of suspensions tossed in for good measure. I could not for the life of me figure out why this lady was hassling me, but after the my final incident my Dad got creative and made me wash all of the walls in the house with a towel and bucket of soapy water, after that I resigned myself to doing what was asked of me.

But, it was obvious she cared, it was this concern that was the central element separating her from many of the teachers that I had up to that point… A great number of my teachers merely taught, merely because they had to, not because they cared or because they saw something in a student that the student failed to tap into.

One of my fondest memories involved an in class writing assignment that she gave; I didn’t think much of what I wrote until she gave me the grade for it…. Much to my surprise, she loved it; she kept me after class doubled over with laughter reading portions of it back to me. I wrestled my first “A” from the woman, who had been my arch-nemesis up to this point. This was the turning point in our relationship, a friendship that we have maintained to this day.

By giving me an “A” on this assignment, she triggered an epiphany that pulled me out of the academic fog that had paralyzed me since the start of my high school career . The excitement in her voice was contagious and it infected me with sense of purpose that I started building on from that point forward.

I had a quantum leap in confidence that had escaped me for the longest time. I started writing for empowerment, for clarity and purpose, by encouraging rather than browbeating me; showing concern rather than disdain; she helped me to redirect my energies into my academics rather than me continuing down the path of underachieving and eventually graduating to a becoming a menace to society.

She told me that I would I write the next great American novel and I believe that it will eventually come to fruition. It was her encouragement that lead me into journalism school after graduation, she kept in touch with even after she ceased to be my teacher, becoming my friend and one of my biggest cheerleaders .

Even after I underwent a series of financial constraints I had to sit out for a couple semesters and got distracted by the travails of life, but I eventually went back and finished, because I didn’t want to abandon the faith that she put in me and helped me to cultivate in myself. Although she didn’t shield me from an assailant, she pulled me back from an impending academic tailspin that was certain to have disastrous consequences.

I’m sure that my experience is not the exception, but I am convinced that it is the norm. Teacher’s commit acts of heroism all the time and we merely neglect to spread the word, it is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy to for the realization to kick in.



  1. Lainie Levin says:

    Beautifully said. I hope she can read this. As a teacher, I can tell you how grateful I am for people like you. No, you may not always be the “easy” ones, but it is the challenge of helping you flourish that makes it worth gettinf out of bed each day.


    1. shunpwrites says:

      Thank you Lainie, funny that you should mention that, I just spoke/emailed her. She echoed your sentiments, thank you for what you do!


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