I recently discovered that one of my favorite high school teachers is retiring. While I regret that she will no longer be a wonderful influence on future generations, I recognize that as an educator who worked persistently to help her students as best she could, she has earned her retirement.

She had a sign up in her classroom that quoted a previous teacher of hers who said, “Teaching seems to be the only service for which the customer does not want his or her money’s worth.” She explained this quote to my class on the first day by saying that despite the ever-waning enthusiasm for education by students, she was going to ensure that we got our money’s worth. And during that semester of civics, she absolutely did.

As a certified teacher’s pet, many of my favorite teachers were people who I maintained a close relationship with and, therefore, received a little favoritism from. Mrs. Staub wasn’t one of those teachers. She never showed any form of favoritism to a student no matter if they got straight A’s or if they never turned in a piece of homework. All her students knew that they were a valued part of her class, even if we were too young to understand what an important trait that is in a teacher.

Despite being a civics teacher, Mrs. Staub never showed a hint of political bias. Instead, she treated all of our ideas with respect. She particularly exemplified that respect when she asked students to vote on which branch of government is the most powerful. Even as I was the only person standing with the belief that the judicial branch has the most control, she supported every student by demonstrating how these differences of opinion stem from our government’s checks and balances.

From her class, I learned not only about the basic structure of our government, but I learned about how a teacher should treat a student. She respected every one of her students and maintained a balance between being our friend and our educator. Not only did she want to impress upon us the knowledge that we needed to pass our tests, she wanted to pass on the same passion for civic life that she maintained. When asked what attribute is most important in an educator she said, “A good educator must continually strive to be better.” As a teacher, she embodied her own wisdom by constantly striving to be the best teacher she could, and I know my life is better for it.

Now I work in government internships and have entered my senior year in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in political science. I work at SCORE to try and create the same kind of atmosphere in Tennessee that drove my love for politics in Mrs. Staub’s classroom. Without her unwavering support and knowledge, I would not be pursuing the dreams that I am today.

I know that not all students will fall in love with politics like I did, but I hope that students can all have teachers like Mrs. Staub. I hope that future doctors find their passion in biology classrooms and that future teachers realize their dream of being an educator because of their own teachers.

If we expect the same high standards throughout Tennessee and cultivate the environments to foster enthusiasm, we can continue as the fastest-improving state in the nation for student achievement.