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The Power of Relationships

My personal testimony of how intentional gestures from my High School chemistry teacher translated into an improve learning environment.

“Thomas, Thomas” exclaimed my teacher as I scrambled to unmute myself. As I found my unmute button, I flicked on my mic and said “here!” thinking that the teacher was still taking attendance. I glanced over at my peers who shook their heads in disgust. I quickly realized that my teacher was asking for the answer to the previous night’s math assignment, and not taking attendance. Being virtually present but mentally distant is a problem we all struggled with during this past pandemic. Whether it was focusing on our math teachers lecture or a meeting it was difficult to be actively engaged

I realized that the root of the problem was that zoom created a stark disconnect between me and my teachers. I went to a small private school in Cerritos California and graduated in 2021. During my time there, I vividly remember my favorite chemistry teacher, Mr. Tiersma, standing outside during breaks greeting each student by name. Students sometimes would return with a quick “Hello Mr. T” while other students would strike up a conversation with him. I only had Mr. T for one period during my second year of High School, yet Mr. T continued to greet me by my name through the rest of High School. I will always remember Mr. T telling us his the most corny chemistry jokes from his famous joke book. When questioned why he was so passionate about telling such corny jokes Mr. T explained to us that he once realized that his students were walking into his classroom unengaged and he needed to first grab the student’s attention before jumping into the material. Mr. T realized that joke could be effective yet fun way to get the students in the learning mindset which would better connect them to the day’s material. Looking back Mr. T was first the true connection I had with my teacher which translated into a connection with the material. I will always appreciate not only his love for teaching but showing me the impact a simple greeting can make.