GRATITUDE: Who Has Changed You?

teacher asking a question to the class

 “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others.”


This month the theme is Gratitude: The Mother of All Virtues. Gratitude can be expressed in a multitude of ways. One way in particular relates back to our education. That is the focus of this entry.

The objective of Leading a Revolution in Education is to provide a communal classical education experience right here on this site, regardless of your age or your traditional education level.

When pondering your education, I want to put you back into the mind of the young student you were, once upon a time. Think back to the teacher, tutor, or mentor that made a mark for good on your life. What feelings or memories come up for you as you go through this thought exercise?

When my wife, Linda, and I founded a school that has now grown to three campuses and many hundreds of scholars and staff over the years, we have gained even more admiration and appreciation for teachers. They are constantly discovering, guiding and demonstrating new ways of inspiring learning, particularly during the crisis of the last two years. Our teachers deserve our thanks.

One thing we’ve found is how many educators count among their greatest possessions the thank you cards and notes of appreciation from their students.

Why is teaching such a profound influence in our lives? What drives teachers to become mentors to those they teach?

The Unlikely Match of “Alma Mater” and “Patriot”

Associated with our teachers and mentors or places of learning is the term “alma mater” meaning “nourishing mother.” The translated word “alma” also means “soul.”  Our mothers, teachers and mentors exist to nourish our minds and souls. As I reflect on my childhood “alma maters” I had a nourishing mother and many inspiring teachers.

It may seem out of place to bring up country at this point, but there is a natural tie between our country and our schools. Regarding our country or nation, part of being an American is to also learn to be a patriot. Freedom is worth our gratitude to our military and mothers and fathers. The etymology of this word comes from “pater” or “father.” Traditionally a father is a protector of his family. So also, a patriot is one who is a supporter and defender of his country.

This is where we bring these two together.

Together “alma maters” and “paters” produce patriotic citizens and good souls ready to defend family and freedom. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?

My 4th grade teacher Mrs. Bell demonstrates this thought well. I will never forget how she challenged me to memorize all the verses of our national anthems and the Gettysburg Address. In this way, Mrs. Bell brought together for me the “parents,” or the mater and pater, inspiring and affirming my gratitude for my education and for my country.

This love and gratitude has been an integral part of me since that time, and it has helped shape the person I have become and the work that I would pursue, namely the John Adams Academies.

Remembering Your Favorite Teacher

The role and greatest gift of a teacher is to motivate their scholars to learn. It is an art. To assist you in this expression of thought and gratitude please contemplate this question: How did your favorite teacher change and inspire you? 

Will you please take a moment and write down your thoughts to those questions? I hope you will all reflect on our “alma maters” and “paters” who inspire the better angels of our nature and have inspired us to become better citizens, souls and scholars. Then, if you are still in contact, share these reflections of your heart with a note of appreciation to those teachers. 

We would love to be edified by your thoughts. Share your favorite memory or the impact a teacher has had on your life in the comments.

Published by Dean Forman

I am co-founder and CEO of the John Adams Academies, an institution that is perhaps the most unique charter school system in America today. The Academies’ curriculum is designed to give its students an American Classical Leadership Education®. This is an education that pursues truth, beauty and goodness and turns its scholars outward in search of those whom they can serve in becoming servant leaders. This website is dedicated to sharing the concepts of an American Classical Leadership Education with its readers so that more citizens can benefit from the truth, virtue and wisdom of the past. The thoughts and opinions I share on this page are my personal views.

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