"When He Said Those Words To Me, I Immediately Broke Down": Teachers Are Opening Up About The Most Impactful Moment Of Their Career

There's no doubt that teaching is a wildly difficult and often thankless job. But despite the challenges that many teachers encounter in their day-to-day, there are still those eye-opening moments that seem to make everything worth it. So when we asked teachers of the BuzzFeed Community to share their own positive stories, many chimed in with that one memorable moment from their career. Here are their heartwarming stories.

Note: This post contains mentions of self-harm and suicide.

1."I work with preschool-age children, so I likely won't be the teacher they quote in their senior year as their favorite. But I have always been satisfied knowing that I have a large impact because I am teaching them skills they need for life! I didn't realize, however, that I would also impact their families — that is, until I was the one who needed help..."

Teacher and children engaging with colorful blocks on a table in a classroom setting

2."When I was a first-grade teacher, I had a student who was moving away in March. He'd made a lot of progress in all areas, particularly his selective mutism. He was quiet, but was beginning to come out of his shell and was really coming into his own as a learner. I was disappointed I wouldn't get to be the teacher to take him 'across the finish line.'"

"On his last day, his mom wrote me the most heartfelt card. She told me they'd never dreamed he would speak so much and so clearly. She wrote that he constantly spoke of how much he loved school, his classmates, and me.

She wrote that she and her husband had tried to delay their move (due to his work) as long as they could to give him as much time as possible in my class. I still have the card, and I re-read it from time to time when I need a reminder of how great our impact can be."

—Meghan, 42, Illinois

3."I've been at my school now for six years, and while some days are harder than others, I love teaching and my students. My first students are now in eighth grade and ready to graduate this year. I've written letters to them before every single one of their state tests, starting from the first year I had them. They told me this year that those notes are the thing that gets them through every year of testing. I've also had students say to me that after graduation, the only teacher they'll still want to talk to is me because I'm 'cool' and I 'get it.' One of my favorite memories is when a student wrote to my principal begging me to teach her the next year when she got to third grade."

Teacher and students are engaged in a joyful high-five at a classroom desk
Maskot / Getty Images/Maskot

4."I was in the middle of a horrendous break-up, coping with being a single working mum of a baby. I was asked to teach a creative writing class at an adult education school. At the end of the course, I made a little 'graduation' for my students, and one young woman who had clear self-harm scars up and down her arms said that this was the first thing she had ever completed in her life. For me, that was a stupendous achievement for both the class and us. This was 20 years ago, and to this day, I am still proud of her. I hope she's done well."

—Niki, 52, Australia

5."Pre-K teacher here! I had a student who was nonverbal the majority of the school year until we heard her say one day, 'When is lunch?' I turned around so quickly! I saw her and knew right away it was her. We saw more of her personality come out every day with us. By the end of the year, she spoke a six-word sentence! We were so proud of her, and I was sad to see her go. She changed my perspective forever, and I will never forget her. Not all students develop at the same rate, and THAT IS OK."

Teacher interacting with young students at a classroom table with a laptop and educational materials


Wera Rodsawang / Getty Images

6."I had a student move to the country two days before school started, knowing absolutely zero English. It was the fall of 2020, so we knew the world had been turned upside down. Now, my student had been pulled from her home country and put into a school with social distancing, masking, and hybrid learning. She had an extremely difficult time with this transition."

"One day, my co-teacher was teaching over the computer, and it was my day to have a small group in person at school. I saw our student understandably struggling, so I grabbed my computer, pulled a desk next to hers (a major no-no at that time), and pulled up Google Translate. 

I began typing what I wanted to say to her (completely unrelated to the lesson happening in the background) and showed her that it could speak to it in Spanish, then she could type in the other box, and I could hear or read it in English.

It took a bit for her to catch on, but once she did, her entire face lit up! It didn't even occur to me that we shouldn't be sitting that close to each other or sharing a keyboard; I just knew that I had thought of a way to help connect with her and help her feel more comfortable and understood.

Her mother later told me that she came home crying from excitement because I had found a way to talk with her.

COVID was HARD, and teaching through all of it was even harder. But out of all my years of teaching and amazing memorable moments, the look on her face when I found a way to communicate with her has to be the moment that melts my heart the most."


7."I am a first-grade teacher of an in-class support classroom, meaning I have a co-teacher and high-support needs students in my room. Last year, I had an autistic student who had a really tough start to the year. He was combative, had major outbursts, and needed so much support just to get through the day. I spent countless hours coming up with the right interventions for him, giving him as much support as I could (with 20 other students in the room), and just trying to understand his needs as best as I could to help him learn and grow."

Students raising hands in a classroom with a teacher in the background

8."The kindness of the students can take your breath away. We were doing some Christmas fundraising, with each class choosing their own charity, and I threw one in myself: a charity supporting my disabled son, which I explained to all the students on a Thursday assembly. The following Monday, a group of my Muslim students handed me an envelope with well over £100 for the charity supporting my son. They had been fundraising at their local mosque and Islamic thrift stores over the weekend. That weekend, they mobilized friends and family to raise money for my son's charity. They said it was part of their religion. Maybe so, but the kindness was incredible, and I just burst into tears."


9."It was my first year at a new school, and I was teaching grade two. I had a student on my list, let's call him S, who everyone warned me about. I got stacks of paperwork about him and his 'behavioral problems,' had a meeting with his parents at their request to talk about how we were going to manage his challenges, heard horror stories from his previous two teachers, etc. I worked really hard with that class; schools were open, but it was COVID, and I was teaching through a mask, with so many strict restrictions in place. Every day was so stressful, and I often wasn't sure I would make it through the school year."

Students in class, one raising hand to answer, indicating active participation and eagerness to learn

10."This student was always a problem. He had no impulse control, so he threw things or said mean comments. He even threw my water bottle one day when he got mad. He had so much trauma, and one day, he had a panic attack in my room. I helped calm him down, and from there, a switch flipped. He wasn't perfect, but he put in a lot more effort. Sometimes it was one on one, but we got a lot done. He's still in the building (though not one of mine anymore), but he knows he can always come to me if he needs a break. Also, he gives me a hug whenever he sees me."


11."In my first year in my current classroom, I had a student who was selectively mute. After our graduation, his mother sent me a video of him emphatically singing the songs we sang in class all year, thanking me and telling me how much he loved me. It was so unbelievably affirming and really put into perspective all the times that year that I had worried whether I was making my class a warm, welcoming space."

Teacher giving a high-five to a student in a classroom setting. Other students are present

—Katie, 29, California

Hispanolistic / Getty Images

12."I just had a senior student I taught as a first-year come up to me in the hallway, crying. Obviously, I thought something bad had happened, but my 'What's wrong?' was met with 'I just got into college!' She had gotten into her first choice college, a student who, in her first year, was completely overwhelmed with high school and struggling to pass her classes. As hard as this job is minute to minute, day to day, moments like this make me realize how important our schools are and how we get to shape the start of so many lives."

—Eileen, Massachusetts

13."A student, who I could not remember from their middle school days, stopped in their graduation procession to say, 'Mr. G, I love reading because of you! Thanks for giving us time to read what we wanted to.' I'll never forget that I helped share my love of reading with at least one kid!"

Graduates in cap and gown shaking hands with a faculty member at a graduation ceremony

—Jason, 37, New Jersey

Fg Trade Latin / Getty Images

14."I've had so many, it's hard to pick just one, but the most recent was when a former student, now in his 30s, sent me a note that said I'd saved his life in high school by accepting his weirdness and just treating him like a person when so many people bullied him for his interests (I knew none of that at the time). He said he hoped I never stopped teaching even though things might be rough now (they are)."

"He has also written several books and credited me with getting him there, as I saw his talent when I had him in Creative Writing. I cried when I read it. It validated not only what I do in the classroom but also my hope that kids see their education as more than just academics but about becoming the person they will be in the future. He's now happily married and gainfully employed, and I'm so proud of him!"


15."I teach English as a Second Language, and my students range from 4 to 70 years old. I had a Japanese man in his 50s whose English level was quite low. He was terrified to even go to the shops and buy anything as he believed people would laugh at him. He was relying on his children and grandchildren for everything. After a few weeks of lessons, he excitedly came to class and told me that, for the first time, he managed to go out and buy a cup of coffee on his own."

Woman presents on whiteboard to colleagues, in a classroom setting

16."I teach first grade in a low-income school in an inner-city neighborhood. I had a student who came from a very neglectful/abusive home, and it was his first time in a school setting. I potty-trained him, taught him how to brush his teeth, hold a pencil, etc. He is also autistic and rarely shows emotions or socializes with the other kids. Our school has a dental clinic, and I referred him to get his mouth checked. He came back from the dentist and was in so much pain. He crawled onto my lap, wrapped his arms around me, and said, 'I just don't ever want to let you go,' and started crying."

"At this point, he had friends in the classroom, could write his name and complete sentences, could go to the bathroom on his own, and could express his emotions.

When he said those words to me, I immediately broke down because I realized I was the first adult in his life to see his personality and potential and provide a safe space for him. 

He was the first kid in my teaching career where I felt like I was starting from scratch. He moved on to second grade and is doing so well socially and academically after being placed in foster care.

To this day, seeing his progress brings tears to my eyes. He made me realize the gravity of my job, and I am so proud of him."

—Anonymous, 24, Ohio

17."I'm subbing right now, and while having a class discussion about questions on a worksheet, one student gave a really good answer that I hadn't even considered. I could tell he was caught off guard when I told him this. As he was leaving the class, he told me nobody had ever said that about him. It broke my heart. As subs, we don't know the kids, so it's a clean slate every day. Whatever reputation they have or history they carry is irrelevant to us, and it's a special kind of privilege."

A student raises their hand in a classroom while the teacher engages with the class
Maskot / Getty Images

18."I had one student three years in a row. This student was LGBTQ, and I knew he had difficulties with family at home understanding him. He joined all the after-school clubs I sponsored. Before he graduated, he came to my classroom and told me he tried to kill himself a few times before he was my student, but he hadn't since he was in my classroom. He told me I was the first adult to make him feel valued, like a person whose life matters in the world."

"I cried and cried later that day. A similar experience happened a few years later; we live in a rural and very religious community. But I still left teaching. It was so stressful, but never because of the children. The policymakers, the administration, the testing, and the unreasonable expectations drove me out."

—Anonymous, 38, Florida

19."I'm a longtime teacher (30-plus years), and not too long ago, a few colleagues and I decided to drop in at a reunion that was going on for a class from the early 2000s. They didn't expect us, and it was total fun to see some of my students 20 years after their graduation. One moment really struck me: when a former student said to me, 'It's amazing to see you; we were just talking about you the other day.'"

Four colleagues take a selfie at a bar, expressing camaraderie with drinks on the table

Do you have a wholesome moment from teaching that you want to share? Tell us about it in the comments or fill out this anonymous form.

Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386.