Honor a Great Teacher through Your Gift to NNSTOY

Honor a Great Teacher through Your Gift to NNSTOY

By Lee-Ann Stephens

One of my favorite quotes comes from William Arthur Ward: The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Most of us have encountered the mediocre, good and superior teachers that Ward describes. For me one great teacher stands out— a teacher who deserves to be honored for inspiring me to greatness.

Through her shining example, my high school teacher, Joelle McIlroy, taught me that:

  • Teaching doesn’t begin in the classroom, but in the heart.
  • I must believe in students even when they do not believe in themselves.
  • We must look for humanity beyond racial and cultural differences.
  • I can stand discomfort if it means my students are comforted.
  • Whom I teach is so much more important than what I teach, because (as Maya Angelou said) my students may not remember every lesson, but they will remember how the words I used made them feel.
  • Failures are just side-steps to successes.
  • It is okay to love my students, for mine may be the only love that greets them every day.

Because Joelle McIlroy is a great teacher who has had a huge impact my life. To honor her and the hundreds of teachers that impact the lives of our students, I am going to donate to a professional association of great teachers, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, NNSTOY.  My hope is that you, too, will honor an outstanding teacher with a donation to NNSTOY that honors a teacher who has made a significant difference in your life.


Lee-Ann Stephens is the 2006 Minnesota State Teacher of the Year.  She currently serves as a Racial Equity Coach for St. Louis Park Schools.

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