I want to be a teacher. I haven’t always, but over the course of my undergraduate career at the University of Notre Dame, I’ve realized that my whole life has led up to this profession.

I’ve always loved learning, especially through reading. I’ve always loved being in school, talking to teachers, and discussing education. At Notre Dame, I’ve gotten to explore all of these things at the highest level, and I’ve been able to meet with professors to discuss the value of teachers.

I have always said that my favorite people are teachers. Teachers are selfless and interested in student success over anything else. They act in roles that aren’t in the job description: friend, parent, therapist, guardian, coach. Teachers inspire and save, all while showing us that we can be more than we think we can. In my life, teachers have been all of those things to me. I share these stories often: stories of my second grade teacher Mrs. Rasch who took it upon herself to teach me the language alongside her curriculum.

Taking education courses, talking about access, and understanding the problems facing schools showed me one very clear thing: Our children deserve the best teachers because teachers change lives. So I chose to pursue teaching.

This summer, I will begin an Elementary Education Master’s Program at Peabody College – Vanderbilt University. I want to be like the kind of teachers that I had in my own career: interested, engaging, loving, and special. I want to be able to introduce a positive male role model at an early stage, and to show students some teachers that look like them. It is so inspiring when kids see themselves as professionals.

This Teacher Appreciation Week, I am reflecting and thinking about all the teachers I’ve met who changed my life. There are too many to list here or share their stories, just as there are so many great teachers who affect all of our lives. I also reflect on the future generation of teachers who I am now studying and growing with, people who are keenly aware of the challenges facing schools and are rising to meet them.

All I can say, to all teachers who sacrifice so much, is thank you. You are loved, you are inspirational, you are appreciated.