We never forget our most effective teachers. These are the teachers who aren’t just teaching to get us to pass our standardized tests, these are the ones who are giving us life lessons that we keep with us as adults.
For example, Nicole Bollerman teaches her students about the importance of giving back to the community, and 100-year-old educator Agnes Zhelesnik teaches that age is really nothing but a number.
When I first heard this story below, I wasn’t sure that it was true. It seemed like a brilliant lesson, but also an awful lot of work to pull off. I’d also seen this story told in a couple different variations through email forwards. It’s an important lesson, but did it really happen?
After doing some investigating, I found out that it is true!
Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee first talked about social studies teacher Martha Cothren in a 2007 speech. This speech garnered Martha quite a bit of attention — as it should have. Martha’s lesson to these students is one that they will never forget.
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On the first day of school at Robinson High School in Little Rock, AR, students walked into history teacher Martha Cothren’s classroom to see that she had removed all the desks.
They inquired where the desks were and Martha told them that the students couldn’t have desks until they’d earned them.
The students all looked around at each other in confusion, and throughout the day, no one could figure out how to earn their desks.
Some students asked if good grades would earn their desks, but she said that wasn’t it.
Others asked if good behavior would bring in their desks, but she said that wasn’t the answer either.
Class after class came to her classroom on the first day of school, but no one could figure it out. The confused students notified their parents who notified the press.
At the end of the day, with all the students returning to her classroom to figure out the answer, Martha let everyone in on the secret.
Martha, a longtime advocate for veterans, shocked everyone when 27 United States veterans walked into the classroom, each carrying one of the desks.
She explained to her students, “You don’t have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you. They put them out there for you, but it’s up to you to sit here responsibly to learn, to be good students and good citizens, because they paid a price for you to have that desk, and don’t ever forget it.”
Cothren and her students send care packages to U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan every year.
In 2006 the Veterans of Foreign Wars named Martha Cothren their “Teacher of the Year.”
Please SHARE Martha’s valuable lesson with all of your friends.