image via

by Karla Hilliard

I confess. When I first heard about this year’s altered start time, moving teacher arrival time from 7:15 to 7:10, I was less than pleased. “But wait!” I said, “Sleep is good for the brain, and…who can even function at that hour?!” “UG!” I said, “I’ll need to drink even more coffee because of that mere five minutes and who even has time to pee during the day?!”

All whining aside. Here’s what happened this morning on the first day of school with me being here a whole five minutes earlier…

My alarm rang at 5:08 AM, and I began my morning routines. I drove my commute of a quarter mile (yes, it’s that close, and I still drive…don’t judge me), and I walked down the familiar halls and saw familiar faces and exchanged warm and familiar greetings with many fellow teachers.

I went to my first-day duty of patrolling the cafeteria and wandered around a bit. I shouted “Hello! Welcome to High School!” to some pretty freaked out freshman, and I drank a whole bunch of coffee in the meantime. I propped open a door to the auditorium and helped out a brand new Junior boy who was without a schedule.

I wandered around a bit more, But then I heard another familiar sound, a few shouts of, “Hey, Mrs. Hilliard!” out in the crowd. I saw Annalyse, Grace, Zoe, Chase, Andrew, Eli, Matt, Hunter, Austin, Drew, Conner, Sadie, Sophia, Colton, Zack, Thomas, Hailey, Alyea, Owen and some others. I got hugs from about half of these students and high-fived a few more.

It was in this moment that I felt both shame and embarrassment over my whine-itude about our slightly earlier morning. Not only this, but I felt humbled and grateful and downright happy to be there in this moment with these young people in this school cafeteria. And I remembered why I’m here and why I show up every day.

The other thing I remembered is this, and we all know it, but getting this reminder this morning somehow seemed charmed…

YOU — I’m talking to you fellow teachers, make a difference. And not in the cliched, “if you can only save one kid” kind of way. Yes, you do that, too. I know it. I’ve seen it. But you make a difference in the smaller scale ways that impact students, little-by-little, day-by-day, until eventually you have a kid on your hands who loves coming to school because of…yep, you guessed it: YOU

You shake hands or fist bump hello, you disinfect desks and throw away gross banana peels, you literally sprint to the work room to make an extra set of handouts for the better, last-minute lesson idea, you buy a value-size box of granola bars for your classroom because you know kids are hungry, you buy Play-doh and Legos to help out some less than enthused learners, you tutor after school,  you show up at games and dances and you dress up for both, you call home, you introduce yourself to parents you see at the grocery store, you don’t embarrass students in class, you don’t expect perfection, you “speak your truth plainly and quietly”, you love your students.

I see you do that, and even more, too.

But you do these things, and it makes a difference, and kids show up to school because of you. Well done. Keep fighting the good fight. Keep holding your pee for as long as you can. Keep shaking hands and giving hugs and doing the small, meaningful thing day-in and day-out because it’s what you do and it’s who you are.

Keep being the difference.

WVCTE is wondering…
How do you see teachers making a difference? What stories can you share about a teacher who made a difference in your life? 

Karla Hilliard teaches STEM Academy English and AP Literature and Composition at Spring Mills High School in Martinsburg, WV. She has been a classroom teacher for 11 years. When she isn’t teaching, you can find Karla hanging with family, cooking up a good meal, reading up on educational trends, crocheting soft things, or eating spoonfuls of peanut butter.

Karla serves as Executive Vice President and Head of of Secondary Affairs for WVCTE. See what’s happening in her classroom at or connect with her on Twitter @karlahilliard.

Categories: Blog

%d bloggers like this: