I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

When Tom Hanks won the Academy Award as best actor for “Philadelphia” in 1994, he thanked his high school teacher, Mr. Farnsworth, without whom, the actor said, he would not be standing on the stage holding the Oscar that night.

“I wish my babies could have the same sort of teacher…” Hanks said in his acceptance speech.

Oprah Winfrey has also paid homage to her own favorite teacher, Mrs. Duncan, who appeared on the media mogul’s afternoon talk show.

“One of the defining moments of my life came in fourth grade—the year I was a student in Mrs. Duncan’s class at Wharton Elementary School in Nashville. For the first time, I wasn’t afraid to be smart, and she often stayed after school to work with me. I thought I would one day become a fourth-grade teacher,” Oprah has recalled.

Kudos to those two celebrities for giving credit where it is due; actually the pedagogues Teachersdeserve as much praise as that which is heaped upon their famous students. Yet, most of the best teachers remain anonymous to the masses. Even some of the great minds and talents of our time—from musicians to secretaries of state—are extolled for other accomplishments, even though they were teachers at one time. I’m talking about people such as Madeleine Albright, Sting, Maya Angelou and Stephen King.

Try googling “famous teachers” and the search results will turn up as many unrenowned names—Miguel de Unamuni, Ralph Ellison, and Augusta Savage—as legendary ones such as Albert Einstein and Booker T. Washington.

That our greatest teachers linger in relative obscurity is shameful. They are the true unsung heroes of our society and, unfortunately, the noblest profession seems to have lost its distinction in modern times even as the challenges of being a teacher have intensified. The rudimentary three R’s are still important, but teachers are responsible for so much more, molding young minds with tools far beyond textbooks and pencils.

“Teaching is a profession that lies at the heart of both the learning of children and young people and their social, cultural and economic development.  It is crucial to transmitting and implanting social values, such as democracy, equality, tolerance, cultural understanding and respect for each person’s fundamental freedoms,” it is stated in “Building the Future Through Quality Education,” a policy paper adopted unanimously at the sixth Education International World Congress in 2011.

Very few of us are autodidactic; and, yet, teachers today are often the subject of scorn, as author Susan Straight wrote in an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times at about the same time she was publishing her book “Take One Candle Light a Room” about an orphaned young man whose life is changed by teachers.

“Teachers are blamed for bad test results, for disrespectful students, for failing schools. They are thought to be lazy, draining public coffers with their monthly salaries and pension benefits (although they actually contribute to their pensions like everyone else),” Straight wrote indignantly.

I have always revered the profession and especially admire those who choose to teach elementary school students. It is one of the most challenging and yet important professions for the development of a person.

When I look back, I think my elementary school years in Italy were the toughest for me as we stayed long hours at school and were then assigned so much homework that we used to fall asleep on the books. Most of the people in the class succeeded in whatever they did, however, because it instilled the concept of “working hard” in our heads.

I had an elementary school reunion last year after 30 years and most of the children in that class went in different directions, but all of them seemed to excel at whatever they did and had apparently good lives.

I attribute that to the teachers who guided us through those formative years. And just as Tom Hanks hoped his “babies” would receive the same kind of tutelage as he did under Mr. Farnsworth, I hope my sons will look back one day and remember their favorite teacher, or, hopefully, many of them, who will in no small measure be responsible for their success.

Written by

John Romano is an entrepreneur, marketing strategist, Internet consultant, blogger and an expert in the technical, conceptual, and content development of online startups. He is the founder of several ecommerce sites and has helped multiple companies launch successful online businesses.


  1. Kaley Alex

    I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    This is so true, John. I grew up in Mississippi, just a few miles from where Oprah lived for a portion of her life – so I know how influential teachers can be when you live in places that ordinarily don’t have a lot going on outside of the school/church venues. I suddenly flashed back to my own 4th grade teacher when I read this – I think I’ll look her up! Thanks for the reminder of influences that shape our lives ….

  2. I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    Kaley, I hope you will be able to reach your 4th grade teacher and surprise her! :)

    • Kaley Alex

      I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

      I did! I found her on Facebook – I think her kids set up the account for her. She’s in her 70s now – waiting for an answer still. Geez, I feel like I’m waiting to see what kind of grade she gives me on the test of “life.” :)

      • I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

        I think you are old enough to grade yourself…! ;)

  3. Jerry A

    I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    I had an English teacher who sent a novel I wrote to a national competition, without telling me about it. When I found out later, it had such an impact on me. It wasn’t a great novel, far from it. But the fact that the teacher believed I “could” have won something like that made me believe in myself for the first time. (BTW, I did become a writer many years later – and have been one for over 20 years now.) Teachers rock!

    • I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

      Maybe she believed “she could have won it!” :) :)

  4. B Landers

    I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    Amazing that people resent teachers getting standard pay increases and benefits. Yet they consider it totally normal for bankers and corporations to get enormous salaries and the ability to write off everything except the kitchen sink (oh wait, they can write that off, too.) Teachers are cultivating our next generation of leaders and decision-makers, so do we really want to discourage intelligent people from taking jobs as teachers?

    • KSL in Memphis

      I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

      I agree, B – and teachers are expected to have really advanced skills in technology these days, yet aren’t paid more for those skills. In the very least, teachers should be paid as much as federal or state employees in other occupations.

    • I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

      If teachers were better paid I think society would definitely benefit in the long-term.

  5. Stephanie

    I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    One of the least respected and underpaid professions. It’s amazing how little respect teachers are given in the US. Our education system built this country.

  6. jon terns

    I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    Teachers of all types are the best in the world. It doesn’t have to be in a formal education setting either, I have learned quite a bit online from people who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with others.

  7. Brock

    I Still Have Admiration for the Noblest Profession: Teaching

    Being older than I care to admit many of my primary school teaches have now joined the great teachers’ lounge in the sky but this article brought back fond memories of many of a number of them. I really got to thinking about the influence they have on young minds. And it’s not just the learning – not just the knowledge they share. It’s the social interactions, it’s the “I can do it” attitude that they impart on us, and they can be that first point of contact for children in situations that children should never be in. They are our eyes and ears when we’re working, when we’re shopping, when we’re taking care of life’s tasks. We need to thank them because, as it was pointed out, they’re pay is not really consummate with the trust we place in the – the duties we assign. And the vast majority of teachers don’t choose that vocation for pay; they make the choice as an investment in the future. And I for one thank them.

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