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Some of history's great teachers

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014 09:47 AM

Every student remembers one or two teachers who really touched their lives. This individual went above and beyond the call of duty to educate and inspire their pupils. Students attending Common Core State Standards-aligned schools may encounter this kind of teacher during their studies, but if they have not yet, they can look to the past. History is full of amazing individuals who changed the lives of their students and the course of education. Here's a look at just a few of those people:

Alive during the fifth century B.C., Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher and teacher. He helped establish what later became the scientific method and Western philosophy. In fact, his teaching format, in which students answer questions through dialogue, is known as the Socratic method and is still practiced today. Socrates taught Plato, another prolific figure in Western philosophy. He inspired many students, but unfortunately, the Greek state did not appreciate him. The educator was charged with impiety and corrupting the youth, a sentence punishable by death. Despite his premature demise, Socrates has continued to influence modern education and thinking.

Anne Sullivan
Anne Sullivan was born blind and lived in an orphanage during much of her childhood. Despite these hardships, she led a successful career. As a child, she begged the orphanage to send her to school, and they did. Sullivan eventually graduated from the Perkins School for the Blind in 1886 as valedictorian. She even overcame her blindness by getting an operation that partially restored her eyesight. Armed with unique experiences, Sullivan went on to teach Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind. She began writing in Keller's hands to help her understand words. Under Sullivan's tutelage, Keller excelled and had an inspirational career. Sullivan's influence is so great that she has been the subject of many books and even a play entitled "The Miracle Worker."

Maria Montessori
You may have heard this name or seen it on the side of a school building, as Maria Montessori created and spread the Montessori method of education. Montessori was born in 1870 in Italy, and she led a diverse career. She first became a doctor after attending an all-boys technical school. However, she felt called to education and changed career paths in 1907. In that year, she opened Casa del Bambini (Children's House), which was a child-care center located in Rome. Montessori studied accepted educational pedagogy and theories, observing classrooms to see how knowledge was taught. She felt the system wasn't catering to children's natural curiosity as well as it could, so she tried her own theories at Casa del Bambini. In her opinion, children don't need people to teach them, they learn on their own naturally. Instead, teachers should guide and support them. This discovery approach to learning later became known as the Montessori method, and it is used internationally to this day. 

These three teachers have influenced their students and the education system, forging the path modern teachers now walk. Without them, schools would look very different.