For as much time as we spend each year around our teachers, it’s surprising how little we actually appreciate them. Teachers dedicate their entire lives to helping us students grow as people, and yet all we give them in return are complaints and mean-spirited jokes. I’ve learned something from every single teacher of mine since preschool, whether it was part of the curriculum or not, and it would be wrong to overlook the significant influence these extraordinary individuals have had on shaping my life.

My eighth grade English teacher, in particular, had a profound impact on me, and I will never forget her for this. Prior to stepping into her classroom, I absolutely despised poetry. I thought that it was boring and pointless, in spite of my being such an avid fan of creative writing. Yet, she helped me recognize the value of writing poetry, revealing how it can function as a safe and effective coping method for stress and negative emotions. I’ve been writing poems ever since the day this teacher showed me how easy it is to express oneself through poetry, impromptu fragments of verses now constantly cycling through my mind. This teacher has drastically changed my life for the better, introducing me to a passion I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and I cannot thank her enough for that.

Even when teachers can have such considerable influences on us, however, I feel as though we still tend to forget that they, too, are human. This past year, I have had the opportunity to grow closer to a teacher I had during my freshman and sophomore years, and I always find myself astonished after having everyday conversations with her. I can’t help but sometimes forget the fact that teachers are people just like me, each with their own lives and experiences, and the thought that I, the exceptionally shy and quiet student I am, could spend over half an hour bonding with a teacher over both academic and personal interests, still amazes me. I never fail to leave these now bi-weekly catch-up Zoom meetings with a large, goofy grin on my face, and I hope to work up the courage to initiate casual conversations with more of my teachers throughout the year. Even in non-academic settings, there is so much one can learn from teachers, and my appreciation for them only seems to amplify the more I talk to them.

Growing up in Wilton, I can confidently say that I am extremely privileged to be a part of a community full of so many passionate educators dedicated to preparing the next generation to both live and thrive in a world that will soon be their responsibility. Even if not all teaching styles necessarily click with me, I still appreciate the efforts that each and every teacher of mine throughout my life has made to help me grow as a person. To all educators reading this, thank you. I don’t know how much weight this statement may have, but know that, at the very least, I appreciate you.

Justin Rosenthal is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with three classmates.