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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community

Tuesday, May 03, 2016
What do rock stars, Nobel laureates, bestselling novelists, astronauts, and attorneys have in common? A teacher changed their lives. Like them, most of us can name a teacher who gave us not only good instruction but also confidence and drive. But, in the face of teachers being blamed for a variety of social and economic woes, teachers themselves can easily wonder whether they are making a difference in students’ lives. 

When veteran teacher Bruce Holbert asked himself this question, his wife, Holly, responded by sending letters to hundreds of people she had never met and had no reason to believe would respond, asking about teachers who mattered to them. She was overwhelmed by answers. Thank You, Teacher: Grateful Students Tell the Stories of the Teachers Who Changed Their Lives presents more than eighty of these up-close-and-personal stories. By a delightfully diverse range of contributors, these essays are wise and witty testaments to the teachers who do what they do every day without expecting recognition, but who so richly deserve it. 

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Thank You, Teacher Giveaway

Who was your favorite teacher growing up? How did that teacher influence you? Did you ever get a chance to say thank you? Most of us can name a teacher who gave us not only good instruction but also confidence and drive. Now you can thank a teacher who changed your life! We invite you to share a story about an important teacher in your life. It can be a teacher who influenced you growing up or someone you admire who is teaching others. 

You can share your #ThankYouTeacher story in any of the following ways: 


  1. Follow us on Facebook.
  2. Find our Thank You, Teacher Giveaway post.
  3. Leave a comment on that post about a teacher who changed your life, using the hashtag #ThankYouTeacher. We also encourage you to tag your teacher, if possible. 
  1. Follow us on Twitter @NewWorldLibrary.
  2. Tweet a brief sentence about a teacher who changed your life (remember to keep it under 140 characters), and use the hashtag #ThankYouTeacher.
  3. Tag @NewWorldLibrary in your tweet. 
  1. Follow us on Instagram @NewWorldLibrary.
  2. Post a picture of your favorite teacher and share your story, using the hashtag #ThankYouTeacher.
  3. Tag @NewWorldLibrary in your post.
We’ll be giving away a signed copy of Thank You, Teacher to three lucky winners selected by random drawing from all the gathered submissions, across all three social media platforms. Entries will be accepted through Monday, May 23, 2016. 

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We hope you'll enjoy this excerpt from the book, which is the Preface written by co-editor, Bruce Holbert:

This book was born in a fashion akin to the birth of my first child. The first labor pains arrived in early morning, and I was the last to know. 

On a December night several years ago, Holly woke me, saying she couldn’t sleep. I remember checking the clock to see if I had slept through the alarm. It was sometime after 2:00 a.m., and sleep was at a premium.

She announced she had decided to write a book for the teachers, “the ones like you no one hears about.”

“What?” I asked.

“I was thinking about how you stand out in the hallway between classes to make sure you talk to everybody when they pass by or come into your room. You make jokes with them and their girlfriends or boyfriends. Kids you don’t even have in class stop to talk with you. Sometimes you make people feel better, and you don’t even know them. I want to see if I can find stories about those teachers.”

I’m sure I was not terribly encouraging. I may have yawned and thought: This too shall pass.

When I next woke, though, Holly was already at the computer, and since that morning I’m not sure she has spent a stretch of more than twenty-four hours away from it. She started out with a query letter to prospective contributors filled with such regard for me and written in such sincere language that even if the project had not progressed any further, the letter itself would have been a gift as generous as any I’ve been given. It seemed to me, though, that the letter’s moving qualities spelled out the project’s doom. No one would respond to a query that didn’t include who would possess the international rights and where each contributor’s name might appear on the jacket.

I was wrong.

Stories began arriving a week later. Janet Reno called, and I didn’t take the call because the caller ID read simply RENO and I thought she was selling time-shares. The kids raced to the mailbox because no one knew when John Glenn or Beau Bridges or Jim Belushi might drop us a line. Those who could not contribute often wrote or called to encourage Holly and to send me their best wishes. This was the most compelling, unintended consequence of the project. People wanted to honor their teachers, yes, but they were just as anxious to respond to Holly’s genuine desire to do something significant for me. What she felt for the work I have cared about and committed to for more than thirty years — work she saw as too often unappreciated — so moved those she solicited that they volunteered their time and words in response to her resolve and faith in education in general and me in particular. I am honored.

It should not have surprised me. Almost every story in this book is told in the context of successful people recalling teachers who were willing to purchase, with time and effort, stock in their lives before they themselves knew they were worthy of the marketplace. As a result, these students purchased larger stakes in their own lives and made good on their teachers’ investments. That is the genius of the best teachers. One may teach the most demanding class in the school; another may have little concern for grades at all. But if they are like the teachers portrayed in this book, their students understand: these teachers’ demands are efforts to demonstrate to their students the talents and character they are not yet aware they possess.

As with my children’s births, my wife bore the labor of this book, and I coaxed a little at the end. However, that does not preclude me from having hopes for both.

For teachers, I hope they will recognize themselves in these stories. I can see almost everyone I work with in one or another.

For students and parents, I hope the same, that they will also see their teachers in these pages, because they are there. In my career, I have had the good fortune to teach great kids. Many are generous enough to write or stop at my classroom and express their thanks as they progress. For those kids, perhaps, I was a voice that spoke to them for the weeks or months when hearing someone’s voice could move them forward in their lives. Though it would gratify my ego to be the person to whom each responded in such a manner, I know I am not. I take much solace in that knowledge, however, as I consistently witness students in other classes finding themselves through other teachers’ efforts, some polar opposites of myself in our notions of how to run a classroom. I have encountered no one in this profession who has failed to affect at least a student or two in significant ways; most teachers do so every day, just as the teachers described in this book have.

I hope, finally, that if those who have little or no connection to schools stumble upon these stories, these pages will provide enough light to balance the dark aspersions that the media and politics often cast on my profession. I hope too that these readers will be reminded of the paradox education researchers consistently report: while respondents typically report that educators in this country perform unsatisfactorily, they just as characteristically rate their children’s teachers as above average or excellent. The public approves of the teachers who instruct our children every day yet disparage the more general notion of educators that the media and political wonks tell us are the reason for society’s ills. This is the uncomfortable irony in which teachers exist.

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Bruce Holbert earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His second novel, The Hour of Lead, was a Kirkus Best Book for 2014 and won the 2015 Washington State Book Award for fiction. Bruce has worked for thirty years as a high school teacher. Holly Holbert

graduated from Eastern Washington University with a degree in geography and elementary education. They live near Spokane, Washington. Visit them online at

Excerpted from the book Thank You, Teacher. Copyright © 2016 by Holly and Bruce Holbert.


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