6 Stories That Prove Good Teachers Might Actually Be Magic

The things these men and women have done for their students are truly awesome.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week again, that time of year when we pause to honor the truly awesome work that educators do, and to thank them for showing up for our country’s kids day after day, and week after week. According to the National Education Association, teachers in the United States put in an average of 52 hours a week, overseeing an average of 20 kids per class. It’s hard work.

And yet so many educators more than rise to the challenge, constantly thinking of new and creative ways to connect with their students and enrich their minds—and lives. Here are six awesome men and women who have come to national attention in the past several years for doing just that. Thank you, thank you, teachers!

This teacher who personalized handshakes for all of his students.
Barry White Jr. is a 5th grade teacher in North Carolina who went viral for coming up with a complex, personalized handshake for each and every one of his 40 students to make them feel special and get them pumped for the day. “This [school] year I started making handshakes with the kids at recess. It was just one or two students and then it became contagious,” White told ABC News. “I saw how much it meant to them, so I said, ‘Come on. Everyone come on.’ Then it was my full class, then it was kids from other classes. Now I have third graders wanting to do it too.”
This teacher who connects to his students through music.
North Carolina-based second grade teacher Michael Bonner was honored on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show" for his innovative method for connecting with his students—all of whom live in poverty. He wasn't having a lot of success with a part of the Common Core, but soon realized he could connect to his kids through music. So he started filming educational music videos with his kids, which quickly went viral, and that have helped the students understand the material and gain self confidence."These kids come to school hungry and distraught, mentally and emotionally," he told Ellen, describing how he's able to stay motivated and creative, "and they find a way to listen to me teach them how to add or to read."
This teacher who bought a bike for every student in her school.
Charleston County School District/Facebook
First grade teacher Katie Blomquist, who teaches in South Carolina, captured national attention in March when she surprised her students with hundreds of custom-made bikes she helped purchase via a viral GoFundMe campaign. She'd hoped to get them to the kids in time for Christmas, Blomquist's fundraising page explains, but wasn't able to until March, at which point she and school administrators revealed the surprise to students by hiding them under parachutes generally used for PE class. (Based on the photos of squealing, cheering kids, it certainly looks like it went over well.)"It was an amazing moment," the Charleston County School District said in a Facebook post, "a moment everyone who saw in person will remember for the rest of their lives."
This teacher who starts every day complimenting his students.
How does special education teacher Chris Ulmer start every day with his students? By calling them up to the front of the classroom and complimenting them for 10 minutes, then giving them all high fives.Ulmer—who started the non-profit Special Books by Special Kids to help elevate the stories of children with special needs and their family—told The Mighty that he has seen a huge jump in his students' self confidence after introducing the new morning program."The children have become much more social and their communication skills have grown incredibly, both verbal and nonverbal,” he said.
This teacher who starts every day asking about her students' most basic needs.
New Mexico-based kindergarten teacher Sonya Romero brought Ellen to tears as the two discussed Romero's commitment to starting every day by asking her students if they've eaten that morning, if they need anything to wear and if they need to brush their teeth or comb their hair. "We usually spend about the first hour of our morning getting ready for our day to learn," Romero—who has fostered two students who were in crisis—said on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show." "I feel like as educators we're sort of the first responders."
This teacher who has taught her students about the joy of Motown.
Malinda Williams is a third grade teacher in California who has gained fame for the joy-inducing Motown revues she stages with kids of all ages in her school, inspired by her own love of the musical genre when she was growing up. (Seriously, they're worth watching.)Williams does it all—designing the costumes and choreographing the numbers (with the help of some parents and faculty) and the results are awesome, attracting attention from people like the family of Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, who asked the "mini Temptations" to perform at a fundraiser—and packing the school auditorium with fans.