Teachers are the world’s greatest unsung heroes, so to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked students to tell us what makes their favorite teacher a superhero. After reading the nomination story for Virginia Pantella—a science teacher from Gaithersburg, Maryland—we knew she certainly fit the cape.
Get to know the superhero—in her own words:
Special power: I’m really good at building meaningful relationships with students.
Origin story: I was a biologist for 15 years, and while I enjoyed it, I felt that I needed more meaning. As life would have it, I had the opportunity to live in Ecuador for over a year where I became engaged in an organization called Centro de la Niña Trabajadora (Center for the Working Girl). This amazing organization does so much to rescue working girls from the streets of Quito and offer them an education in makeshift classrooms of central markets. The children inspired me so much that when I returned to the U.S., I worked diligently to find a way to take my background in science (and now Spanish language) and leverage them into the middle school classroom environment. I have loved the change and for the first time in my life I feel like I am doing what I was born to do.
Kryptonite: Lack of effort.
Virginia received over 30 nominations from students and parents. You can read a few of them below.
Virginia has not only taken a group of middle school students with her to the Galápagos Islands, she also just got a grant to add STEM education to our middle school, comprised of a melting pot of students. With her significant efforts, she has been able to single-handedly develop a new classroom equipped with [electronic] breadboards, a 3D printer, and other technological equipment fueled towards servicing students that otherwise would not be exposed to an advanced science program. Additionally, this year she had a technical class on submarines and building similar devices funded by the Navy. Her efforts in education are wholly outstanding and has inspired my children in the sciences beyond what I could imagine for middle schoolers. Lastly, she is in the midst of all of these programs as she works toward her PhD in STEM education. She is a phenomenal role model and an impressive person that leads by action, not just words.
– Vanessa S.
She does everything she can, including bringing us to the Galápagos Islands, to help us learn all we can. She brings us to the action so we know what’s going on and how it works. She doesn’t talk down to anyone. She lets us know new information as soon as she learns about it herself. She talks to us like adults. She is not only a superhero, she’s superhuman.
– Antonio J.
She loves teaching and she makes learning fun. She has a definite passion for helping kids along the pathway of education. She knows when to joke around and when to get serious. She has been one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.
– Dillon C.
Ms. Pantella is beyond passionate and truly enjoys teaching and expanding the minds of all of her students. She is very personable and dedicated to her craft and wants to share her knowledge and experience. I’m a parent that tagged along with her class and my daughter to the Galápagos Islands. I really enjoyed the excitement of all the children, including mine, when she discussed the topics we were exploring. All the students really look up to her and she is a great role model and a teacher I know my daughter will remember forever. The world needs more teachers like her.
– Amy C.
She’s funny. She loves you no matter what you do. She listens to your problems. She is always there to help you with anything and does the best she can. She makes science fun. 🙂
– Ore A.
To thank Virginia for her service, we rewarded her with a $1,000 school donation as well as a trip to New York City. And to thank all teachers, we’re lighting the Empire State Building in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. See it shine in EF’s signature pink on Friday, May 11. After all, superhero teachers deserve a super-large spotlight.