Gratitude for Teachers | Facing History & Ourselves
Teachers Dancing in School Hallway

Gratitude for Teachers

Facing History educators are in a class of their own. Let’s celebrate them!

What’s special about Facing History classrooms? For many students, the top answer is their teachers.

Each year, the first full week in May marks Teacher Appreciation Week. As we take time this week to recognize all of the hard work teachers do throughout the year, here are what some Facing History alums have shared with us about the impact their teachers have made on them.

“I definitely think she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. She planted these little seeds—important lessons that have now become lifetime learning opportunities.” - Raegan Miller, speaking about her Facing History teacher Mary Sok

Raegan Miller, Student Upstander

Student Reagan Miller in classroom.


My name is Raegan. I'm a senior at Watchung Hills Regional High School. I was definitely like the girly cheerleader type. I liked having a lot of friends and going out. Coming into high school, I kind of wanted to see a different side of myself that I wasn't really expecting.

When I first met Raegan, she was this bright, earnest woman in my world history class. A lot of the Facing History pieces are what she seemed to connect to, the social and emotional. And just placing herself in history, I could see her begin to really evolve and excel both academically but also just growing as a person.

I definitely think she saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. Today we're going to continue our focus on identity, and we are going to be making identity charts.

The Facing History curriculum, I have found for my students that it has increased their ability to inquire and think about the world. It has engaged them in class lessons. It has encouraged them and empowered them to stand up and believe that they can make a positive difference in the world.

She planted these little seeds, important lessons that have now become lifetime learning opportunities. Throughout freshman year, we continued to have amazing lessons in world history. We learned about the Rwandan genocide. We read Facing History's No Time to Think.

My favorite Facing History piece from the Holocaust is No Time to Think because the professor is so articulate and just talking about how his inaction contributed to what happened.

It's noticing and realizing the small steps one takes for something big to happen.

The photo lighting up social media, two New Jersey teens at a recent Halloween party. One dressed as a slave owner, the other as an African American slave.

I was sitting at home and my cousin had showed me a picture that was taken at the party of these two boys, and I knew that right there and then that I was going to go into school the next day and we were going to talk about it in diversity club.

Students had a lot of questions, had a lot to process. There were students who were at the party that were upset that they didn't say anything or perhaps didn't know what to say.

You want to understand how a group of people could feel that this was OK and right. I volunteered to go see the Warren mayor to invite him to the event that we were scheduled to have in November.

We had our United Against Hate community-wide event that was led by Raegan and a group of our students, and that was an event that kicked off the community's commitment. We really wanted to make it clear that was the beginning of a series of difficult conversations that we wanted to engage our community in.

Not only did I learn that injustice is something real and happens, I learned people in my class and people that I see every day face these injustices and that's extremely eye-opening for a 14, 15-year-old to understand.

So in all of our conversations about embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the district, the mascot started to come up. We needed to reevaluate the symbols that we were using and see if they were in line with the culture of inclusivity and respect that we were committed to promoting.

We knew it was going to be very controversial. So it just seemed like we kept putting it off.

Having to tell an adult or an authority figure that what they think is not really acceptable, it's hard because you're going to get backlash for that.

There was a board of education meeting to discuss it. Raegan had already set the tone. We can no longer have this mascot represent Watchung Hills.

If you don't speak out and stand up against injustices and prejudices in your community, they'll just continue to happen, and then it becomes a spiral and it continues to get worse.

The Facing History curriculum and the premise of that curriculum really shows our students the relevance of the history they're learning and how to practically apply it to be more engaged citizens. And I think these students, Raegan at the helm, are really leaving a legacy for future Watchung Hills students.

An upstander is the person in the crowd who says that's not right. They're the person who when an injustice happens, they stand up. Through everything that I did, I learned that having a little bit of bravery goes a very long way. I will always consider myself an ally. I will always consider myself an upstander. And I'll always continue the warrior way and be a kind and respectful member of my community.



Raegan Miller, Student Upstander

Raegan shares her story in this recorded message for the Facing History & Ourselves 2022 New York Benefit.

“I didn’t have the most confidence in the world when I was in high school. I really struggled with writing papers. My advisor Paul just told me, ‘You need to believe in yourself. You need to remind yourself that you can do this.' Those reminders from Paul, with him not doubting my abilities and motivating me to actually believe in myself, had the greatest impact.” - Yenny Bautista, Facing History Alum

Facing History helped me realize that when you know somebody’s story, it’s impossible to see them as anything other than human. . . . How do I work alongside people who don’t share my personal and political views? I do what Facing History taught me to do: I humanize.” - Melanie Arroyave, recalling the lessons of her Facing History class with Mr. Woods

Melanie Arroyave, Facing History Alum

Melanie Arroyave, Facing History Alum

Melanie Arroyave, 2019 Student Upstander Award recipient, details her journey to becoming a Facing History student and connecting to her identity.

“Today, because of Facing History and my incredible teachers, I am proud to say that I am the educator I dreamed of becoming when I was in high school.” - Hannah Nguyen, Facing History Alum and Educator

It’s clear, our educators are incredibly dedicated professionals who take the training and curriculum Facing History provides and do the work of integrating our approach and bringing it to life for their students.

The lessons that Facing History develops deal with some of the most difficult moments in history. Being a Facing History educator requires helping students grapple with thorny ethical questions while instructing them to critically think and thoroughly examine the lessons of history. All of this necessitates a level of care and planning that asks more of our educators.

To thank our educators and the tremendous work they do to usher in the next generation of upstanders, we encourage you to show gratitude to the teachers in your life. And don’t feel hemmed in by Teacher Appreciation Week—anytime is the perfect time to let teachers know how much they add to our lives.

Here are some ways to send some cheer a teacher’s way. Anyone, from parents to students to community members, can join in.

  1. Write a heartfelt thank you note: These notes can be given in person or sent via email.
  2. Provide classroom supplies: Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies. Contribute by donating essential materials or gift cards to alleviate some of the financial burden.
  3. Take the time to share positive feedback about the teacher with school administrators. This can boost recognition of teacher efforts and contribute to their professional growth.
  4. Show up for them: Whether it’s attending parent-teacher conferences, offering to volunteer at a school function, or showing your support for them at community events, everyone can find ways to  engage in meaningful conversations with teachers and support their work.
  5. And when in doubt, support Facing History! Your gift directly contributes to the professional learning and support we offer teachers.