Teachers are the Ultimate Changemakers

by Afiya Williams

Afiya Williams is the Program Manager at Global Nomads Group, a longtime partner of Students Rebuild.

To support the Students Rebuild Changemaker Challenge, Global Nomads Group (GNG) launched the Changemaker Chronicles, inviting students around the world to submit videos honoring someone they think is a changemaker. I’ve truly enjoyed viewing all of the submissions we received.

Students are honoring people who go the extra mile, who have broken down barriers, who have increased access to resources, who work for justice, and who represent a part of the youth's identities (gender, disability, interests). We’ve received videos from youth around the world honoring notable names like Ahmad Al-Shugairi, Muhammed Ali and Michelle Obama. Or activists like Malala, Greta Thunburg and Alice Wong, who even retweeted our Twitter post about her video. Some students have sent us videos that express gratitude to mothers and cousins and other members of their family who they find admirable. What really stands out to me, though, is the number of students who decided to honor their teachers.

Check out some of these videos:

Heidi- GNG V2 Heidi (USA) honored a former teacher who has left a lasting impression on her.

Umer- GNG V2 Umer (Pakistan) did a special shout out to a teacher he thinks goes above and beyond.

Austin- GNG V2 Austin (USA) did a tribute to his band director and both

Majid + Mo GNG Majid (USA) and Mo (USA) feel very supported by their class advisors.

Uwajeneza-GNG V2 Uwajeneza (Rwanda) admires a teacher in her refugee camp.

Emmy-GNG Emmy (Rwanda) looks up to her health club leader who teaches reproductive justice, a subject close to her heart.

These changemaker videos dedicated to educators have me thinking back to the teachers I had from kindergarten to graduate school—I can’t even recount all of the ways they have impacted my life. If I were a student making a Changemaker video for my teacher, I’d make one for my high school history teacher, Mr. Schmidt. His advice and his presence had a huge impact on me.

I think about how, in those years, I was finding my voice and navigating my evolving identity in a new environment. As a gay man with a colorful spirit, he taught me to trust my voice and unforgivingly show up as my authentic self. Nearly twenty years later, his energy, his words and his legacy have stuck with me. Truly, I could never thank the many teachers in my life enough for their influence on me.

I know that most teachers probably won’t ever get to hear how much gratitude we all carry for their impact on us. But these videos we’ve collected this year are a beautiful reminder of just how important teachers are to students and how much youth recognize your roles in their lives.

I know your students will carry you with them after they leave your classrooms for summer vacation and for many years to come. And I believe what’s truly amazing is that, as a teacher, being a changemaker today will make a lasting impact for many years to come. So, as we celebrate you and your contributions to your students, I wonder, who are the teachers you would honor as changemakers?