"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry B. Adams
Multiplication Test photo
Multiplication Test Photo by Chris Liverani via Unsplash

There are a ton of inspirational teacher quotes. Sometimes, we need to accentuate the positive and remind ourselves of the larger goals. Here are a few that help:

The full Fitzwater quote is:

“The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad…Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget the sesame young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.”

—Ivan Welton Fitzwater

Pat Conroy is a favorite author for many. Usually people cite a few of the famous novels, The Great Santini, Lords of Discipline, Prince of Tides and his autobiography of teaching in a school that is the poorest-of-the-poor on a tidal South Carolina island, Conrack. For me, I found his Beach Music to the most lyrical and well-written and beautiful. There are plenty of comparisons between it and its contemporary, the recently deceased Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show trilogy; I highly recommend both Beach Music and The Last Picture Show. Here’s Conroy on teaching:

“There is no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.”

—Pat Conroy

In the “It takes a village” vein, the Rev. Jesse Jackson wrote:

Children need all school workers. A person is not ‘just’ a janitor, not ‘just’ a custodian. Janitors can see children when (teachers) don’t see them, and bus drivers recognize that children who are disruptive on the bus are likely to be disorderly in the classroom. They’re partners in education. We need each other to make this work.”

—Jesse Jackson

Amen. We’re all in it together, each doing our part, putting pieces in the puzzle that is a human being in our charge. And we all, especially teachers, have an impact:

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

—Henry B. Adams

How do we affect eternity? It can be positive … or even more impactful, if we teachers can touch kids’ human feelings through warmth, Carl Jung noted:

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”

—Carl Jung

Frosty Troy was an Oklahoma journalism legend and highly sought-after speaker. In the new, super-majority Trump Party Oklahoma, as far gone into Trumpism and conspiracy/apocalypse/cruel thinking as it is, ol’ Frosty would probably be especially unwelcome. But there was a day when he was ubiquitous all over the state, and people paid attention and agreed with him. He had this to say about the necessity of touching a child’s heart and setting them on a new path:

“I like to think that the greatest success of any life is the moment when a teacher touches a child’s heart and it is never again the same … Everything America is or ever hopes to be depends upon what happens in our school’s classrooms.”

—Frosty Troy

Giovani Ruffini notes that in doing the kinds of things in the quotes above, good teachers pass on themselves to others in a unique and selfless way:Mar

“A teacher is like a candle which lights others in consuming itself.”

—Giovani Ruffini

In order to light others with our fire, our character is more important than the content we teach:

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”

—Karl Menninger

Mark Twain is always eminently quotable. He had several on the importance of teachers and teaching:

“It is noble to teach oneself, but still nobler to teach others—and less trouble.”

—Mark Twain

“Education that consists of learning things and not the meaning of them is feeding upon the husks and not the corn.”


“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end, you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.”


I’ve always been a fan of the life-long learning concept. You never stop learning new things until you’re dead and brain activity ceases. I learn something new from my students every day; or something new from reading, writing, or conversations. We’re always curious, always learning. It’s what makes us human. And we must make sure to never stop, especially if we teach:

“He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

—Richard Henry Dann

We teachers know that none of this is easy and it takes experience and a deft touch, plus paying sharp attention as we move along:

“Teachers know there will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how we use them.”


Not only are there stumbling blocks which can be turned into stepping stones, there is live electricity that we need to ground:

“A teacher’s constant task is to take a roomful of live wires and see to it that they’re grounded.”

—E. C. McKenzie

In the process of grounding our students without sucking the life force out of their live wires, we have to remember that our big accomplishments may stem from very small, impactful things, not successful rote memorization of facts. And that this is a very good thing:

“A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with rows and rows of natural objects, classified with name and form.”

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This could go on forever, but this should suffice for now. Keep you eye on the bigger prize; a child may have forgotten 5 x 2 = 10 today, but tomorrow they may become a teacher with an innovative way of teaching math, or reigning in the algorithms of big tech or be in charge of making sure the human individual and their dignity remain supreme, regardless of how “neat” robots bringing us drinks or cleaning our houses is for some. You never now the nature or effect of the waves that ripple out from the pebble you throw in the pond.

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