What Inspired These Great Teachers to Become a Teacher

Pearson recently sat down with a handful of teaching veterans who’ve been recognized as Teachers of the Year in their own states. They talked about their craft, their students—and the future of learning.

“The Only Safe Space for Me Was School”

Heidi Welch is the oldest of her family’s four children.

“Growing up, we were a poor family,” Heidi says. “We were homeless at times, we lived in shelters—I had a very abusive childhood.”

“The only safe space for me was school,” she says.

Heidi started to blossom.

“I loved school, I loved the smell of pencils,” she says. “Since then, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”

Later in high school, she read “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas.” It was the first of his three autobiographies.

“I still read that book once a year,” Heidi says. “Its basic message is the power of education leads you to freedom.”

“The book helped me realize that the only way out of my circumstances was to go to college,” she says.

Heidi did go on to college and beyond.

In 2013, she was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year.

Actress, Artist, Teacher

Heidi is one of a three teachers featured in this video who share stories about the events and people that inspired them to be teachers.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas, the 2000 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year, talks of the gentleness of her kindergarten teacher who was “tall like Jack and the Beanstalk’s giant’s wife.”

“She inspired me,” Elizabeth says, adding that her teacher remembered her name years later.

She says kindergarten was a time when she wanted to be three things: an actress, an artist, and a teacher.

“I felt being a teacher allowed me to do everything I ever wanted to do in one,” Elizabeth says. “I teach because I love to teach, I love to see that a-ha moment in children.”

“I love to teach because it’s part of my life, it’s part of my breathing,” she says.

A Surprise Calling

Laura Drake recalls a time when she thought her dreams of teaching were misguided.

“And my aunt says to me, ‘You need to be a special education teacher,” Laura recalls.

Her aunt had a special needs daughter who lived with Laura’s family for a time.

Laura played cards often with her cousin.

Her aunt said: “I heard you working with my daughter. You were so good with her, you need to be a teacher.”

“That series of events inspired me,” Laura says. She was named Wyoming’s 2013 Teacher of the Year.

This is part of a series of conversations with great teachers. Hear the other inspirational stories: