Why Teachers Matter To This Gold Medal Gymnast

SML-9338-CREDIT-Renee_ParenteauWhile I always enjoyed learning, I admit I wasn’t always the most comfortable at school. I never truly felt that I fit in with the other kids. I was very shy and tiny with this huge hair I had no idea what to do with. I didn’t wear make-up (didn’t really know how). I was a bookworm of sorts, reading for hours on end then jumping up to tumble for the rest of the day. I was intimidated by the ease that most other kids seem to have on a daily basis with raising their hands and answering tough questions. I was happy just to take the test quietly. But I did love the work and the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished a big project or a tough paper.

And I loved my teachers. There were certainly a few that have stood out over the years. The teacher that somehow knew exactly what to say or do to get the best from me. The PE teacher that realized I couldn’t run a mile in less than 10 minutes but gave me a moment to shine on the makeshift balance beam. There were the teachers that brought life to a subject that would typically put you to sleep.

As a professor, my father made sure that from the time we were little, my sister and I didn’t shy away from math and science. He saw that too many times in his courses. He wanted his girls to approach numbers unafraid, to know that we could do or be anything we wanted as long as we were willing to work hard. As a physics professor, he helped me understand how math and the principles of physics truly related to my life……and particularly my sport.

A great teacher can change your life. A great teacher goes beyond what’s written on the page and helps you understand why it matters. A great teacher forces you to think on your feet and think for yourself. A great teacher gives you confidence in your abilities and makes you eager to learn more each and every day.

So to all the great teachers out there, and especially to those who have touched my life, THANK YOU for all that you do each and every day. It’s a struggle day in and day out, but know that what you do matters. It matters today, it matters tomorrow, and it matters 10 years from now. Keep it going and keep up the great work!!

Shannon Miller is the most decorated American gymnast in history and is the only female athlete inducted into the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame – twice! Her tally of five medals at the 1992 Olympics was the most won by a U.S. athlete. At the 1996 Games, she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the U.S. Women’s first ever Team Gold and captured Gold on the Balance Beam for the first time for any American gymnast.

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