When asked which teacher I had has changed my life? I would say Ms. Kleiman, a pre-calculus teacher at Wilson High School. This answer does not come immediately. It arrived after a subtle process of elimination, as well as reminiscing the worse and bad times in classrooms that help shaped with my perception of good teacher.


When I first met Ms. Kleiman, she seemed hard, but little did I know that it was because she wanted to see her students succeed. She was one of the few teachers that have inspired me to work hard for a subject I thought I had no interest on. Her instruction was straightforward. She was excited about every chapter she was teaching. She loved math and did not believe in “trick questions”—questions that purposely tricked students into giving the wrong answers.

However, Math was still a challenge to me. I failed my first test. Not knowing what to expect from a teacher who known to be strict, I went to ask for help. Ms. Kleiman was dedicated. She began to help me on my math problems before school, lunchtime and after school. I never imagined that I would be studying math three hours per day, but with Ms. Kleiman, I was. And that was because she was such a good listener to me. She guided me through my weak points in math and strengthened them with.

But, not every teacher is as caring as Ms Kleiman.

I have encountered other teachers just simply should not be teaching, but no one seem to take the problem seriously. People seem to think students dislike their teachers because they were classified as ‘bad students’ in those classes. But from my experience, that is not true.

Through out my high school years, I had been the “teacher’s pet". I was paying attention in class, doing all my homework, studying hard, but nonetheless, I have met teachers who taught without passion, believed in student failure rather than success, or simply did not know how to make a subject interesting.

The sad thing is these teachers seem to stick around. The New York Daily News reports, “over the past three years, 2007 to 2010, just 88 out of some 80,000 city schoolteachers have lost their jobs for poor performance.

Teachers union have ensured that all their teachers are taken care of, making it expensive and too long of a process for those teachers to get fired.“ New York City fired only 10 of its 55,000 tenured teachers. The cost to eliminate those employees averages out to $163,142,” according to Education Week.


In California, The Los Angeles Times  reported in 2009 that fewer than two percent of teachers are denied tenure during the two-year probationary period after being hired.

While good teachers changed students’ lives, there are teachers who do not deserve these benefits. As long as union leaders are still protecting teacher terminations, students will be greatly affected, hurting their chances for a good education.

Sharee Lopez is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.