To Teachers

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Nerissa Naidoo
Member since April 30, 2016
  • 4 Posts
  • Age 24

Photo by Roman Mager

Photo by Roman Mager

This post is a collaboration between Nerissa Naidoo, Domitilla De Luca Bossa, and Amadou.

One of the best parts of the VOY internship is meeting and interacting with people from all over the world. Being exposed to diverse perspectives not only helps us craft more thoughtful pieces, but it extends our view on social justice issues and life in general. We were especially eager to get started on this, our team post, because it was finally our chance to collaborate with the remarkable young people whose writing we’ve been following for the last few weeks.

Each of us in our group experienced a completely different life path from the other: Domitilla grew up in Italy and spent two years at an atypical international high school. At the age of 15, Amadou was a migrant from the Gambia starting a new life for himself in Palermo. And Nerissa had a traditional middle-class upbringing in a non-traditional post-apartheid South Africa. And while we celebrated our diversity, we had to find common ground in deciding on a topic for this post, instead of writing about diversity itself, which all of us had already touched on in our work.

Our brainstorming session unearthed our shared love for writing and general desire to make the world a better place, but, more importantly, we discovered that we were all particularly passionate about one area of youth development: education.

It was International Teachers’ Day on the 5th of October, and the meaningful influence of teachers is evident in that, despite the differences in our experiences, we each have one to share about them. Whether it’s an educator reading To Sir, With Love to her 11th grade English class, or an adult in a rural village helping kids broaden their horizons, or our mentors in this internship, we want to celebrate the unique contribution of the people who have helped us get to this point.

To achieve this, we each wrote a snippet on the way teachers have impacted on our lives:


One of the teachings I have received from my parents is to always respect others. This applies especially to teachers, who are often disrespected by young pupils.

This does not mean I didn’t have a hard time with some of my teachers sometimes. Probably, this is because in the Italian school system, teachers tend to think that students are lazy and not interested in classes, so my enthusiasm for learning has often been misunderstood and tested.

Nevertheless, I think the issue is the education system, rather than the people themselves - many teachers became a great inspiration for me. From those in my Italian high school, who ignited my passion for classic culture of the ancient Romans and Greeks, to my teachers at United World College (UWC), who stressed the importance of developing my personal point of view in my studies.

What I have valued the most, though, is when teachers were able to create a personal connection with me. I experienced this both in my Italian high school, where teachers showed me their compassion in times of personal difficulty, and at UWC, where professors were always able to cheer me up with a smile. These teachers have become really important to me - I consider them true role models.

If I could give an advice to students it would be: respect your teachers and make the effort to consider them for who they are, not for the role they have. At the same time, an advice to university professors would be: take some time to get to know your students and give them the chance to show you how mature they are. You’ll both gain new perspectives that could enrich your lives.


The importance of teachers cannot be overstated. Every important person in this world has been nurtured by a teacher, allowing them to become who they are.

Many people believe that education is a continuous process throughout our lives - but some points on this journey stick out more than others, and should never be forgotten.

My primary school teacher has given me a piece of advice that has been very useful in my life. He said that whatever assistance I am giving to people, I should do it out of love and not expecting something in return - this has been ringing in my ears ever since.

Another teacher in my primary school helped me discover a talent that I hadn’t been aware of before. Public speaking had been something that I admired when seeing people doing it but I had never realized that I can do it too. My teacher started writing small notes for me to read in class and giving me some information to read to pupils in groups. He encouraged me to speak in public, making me realize that I can actually do it.

Thanks to my wonderful teacher, today I feel quite at ease when speaking in public.


I’m slightly biased because both my parents are teachers, but it really set the tone for my relationships with teachers from a young age. We’d often be stopped in shopping malls and public spaces by my parents’ past pupils, who would thank them for taking a chance on them when no one else would (and sometimes apologise for being badly behaved).

I always respected teachers who had time for their students, and trusted their opinions, especially in high school when it came to making career choices. But it was really in university, notorious for detached, too-busy-to care professors, where I found my teachers who I’d stop in some shopping mall 10 years from now.

My lecturers always encourage me to set the bar higher, and gently remind me to stop being so hard on myself when I don’t reach that bar. They’ve taught me how to think critically about the world around me, but also that the world is mine for the taking. And since we’re discussing the world, I’d wish they know they deserve it, for the simple reason that they’ve helped me grow into someone I can be proud of. I just hope they’re proud of me too.

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