That Teacher

Life brings a variety of blessings. But of the more precious ones is encountering That Teacher. You know the one. That teacher who inspires, encourages, sees something in you that you never knew existed. You believe you are the smartest or most talented or most charming kid in the class when that teacher pours their sunshine upon you. Mrs. Ciampoli (now Mrs. Ciampoli Oliver!) at Woodstock Elementary was that teacher for me. (I have since realized, statistically speaking, that possessing that teaching talent must mean that more than one student at a time might have felt the way I did!)

She was my fourth-grade teacher who instilled in me a love of words and writing. Mrs. Ciampoli had a box of words—literally, a box of words—in the back of the classroom. It was a box with long flashcards with groups of words printed on them. Once I finished studying one card, I could go to the back at my own pace and pick out another. It was a vocabulary buffet that I devoured in gulps. At least, that’s how I remember it.

Mrs. Ciampoli also encouraged me to enter a writing contest: What the Liberty Bell Means to Me! And I won a $25 savings bond. This photo was from the awards ceremony at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, circa 1975. I never cashed the savings bond and would likely now cringe at the words in the essay, but I have cherished the love of writing that Mrs. Ciampoli instilled in me. In fact, she might be responsible for infusing me with a love of learning as well.

I have had many teachers in my life, who always seem to appear at exactly the moment I was ready to consume what they have to offer. What Mrs. Ciampoli did was to awaken a joy in me for crafting sentences from those words in order to paint pictures or ideas or stories.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. – Albert Einstein

Now, I have the opportunity to teach, or at least mentor, others (mostly in my work life). It is a daunting idea since I believe I have so much still to learn myself. But I strive to be That Teacher. While I am humbled by the idea that I might have something meaningful to offer, I’m pleased with how much I learn from those encounters as well. It is such a rewarding experience.

I have often wondered what teachers see in their students. What is it they notice that draws them to invest? Is it a spark of creativity? Is it a curiosity? Perhaps they notice habits of discipline or precision in a student’s work or an appetite for concepts. Teachers must be optimists—for what else would explain their dedication to someone who may never bear the fruit they have imagined?

I have been in touch with Mrs. Ciampoli on Facebook, and I have been able to share my appreciation for the impact she has had on me. I have discovered that she is a writer and an artist in her own right with a passion for travel that rivals my own. In fact, she has written several children’s books about Ollie and Mollie and their travels.

Teachers have had a tough year with the difficulties of the pandemic and distance learning. I have many friends and family members who have served in this noble profession. I have seen how dedicated they are and how much passion they have for creating a learning environment for their students. As we prepare for a new school year, never has it been more important to share our appreciation for the impact of teachers in our lives.

Who was That Teacher for you? Have you ever shared your appreciation with that person?


  1. That is so cool that you got in touch with that teacher !! I know it meant a lot to her !!
    All teachers should remember that the power of life and death is in the tongue !?

  2. I think my teacher is Mike Johnson he was my auto body instructor. He believed and encouraged me to have the confidence to be in the auto body industry.

  3. You certainly have a gift of teaching and inspiring others as well. You taught Anna how to properly prepare for an interview and she was selected for the internship as a result! You inspire me by just being your true, honest self. I value your thoughts and opinions and I reflect on them long after we’ve parted. I truly admire everything about you and am so blessed to call you my dear friend!

  4. You have inspired me to look up my business teachers in high school. They made an impact on me. After summer, I returned to 11th grade pregnant. It was pretty unheard of at that time because they wanted you to transfer to a school for pregnant girls. The school did not offer business courses and actually very little other than the core subjects. My Mom wasn’t having it and they explained I would face a lot of ridicule and judgement. Never did, to my face anyway. I credit much of my caring treatment to all of my teachers but my typing and stenography teachers were especially awesome. They treated me the same as the other students but recognized I no longer totally fit in with my friends and yet wasn’t quite a woman yet either. Through gentle guidance they helped me stay the path to enter the workplace while becoming a Mom and wife at such an early age. It was new ground for all of us. Exciting, scary and rewarding. Many came after me that next year, deciding to mainstream. I like to think it was a good thing. Not becoming a mother at such a young age but no longer being hidden away from opportunities. Thank you ladies for everything. You were my teachers, friends and angels. I know I threw you a curve ball in an already challenging position.

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