To all teachers who struggle with long hours, low pay and under-appreciation, please know that your influence is generational and your value priceless.

The gift of learning

One of my teachers said, "Never let education get in the way of learning." As a teacher myself, I occasionally wonder whether I’m getting through to my students. Like most teachers, my goal is to inspire students with the gift of learning rather than simply to impart data.

When I see the spark in a student’s eye that says "I’m learning how to learn," that’s when I know I’ve been successful. If my students hunger for learning and translate learning into doing and doing into being, they can face life armed with the key tools for self-esteem and success.

The influence of mentors

I vividly remember my eighth-grade English teacher. A vivacious Southerner with an infectious enthusiasm, Mrs. Dubberly was Don Drysdale’s mother-in-law. As an avid Dodger fan growing up in the L.A. area in the 1960s, a class with Mrs. Dubberly was like a daily surrogate autograph from a boy’s best hero.

Mrs. Dubberly made learning fun. She wrote little notes of encouragement requesting a first edition of my future novels. Her belief in me sparked a desire to believe in myself.

Another mentor and friend was my high school social studies teacher and baseball coach, Norm Morrow. When I was homeless at 16 and forced to support myself, Coach Morrow believed in me, encouraged me and made sure I came to class every day and kept up my grades.

Value in a valueless society

When college football coaches earn more in a week than some teachers earn in a year, it says a lot about what we truly value. While most of these highly paid coaches are terrific mentors, so are the vast majority of underpaid teachers.

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We are a value-driven society, but all too often our values are dollar signs. Because character still matters, kudos to all teachers and mentors who fight through the classroom challenges of broken homes, drugs, gangs and budget cuts.

The next time we lament a bad teacher, may we also remember to thank the overwhelming number of dedicated teachers whose value to community and nation are priceless. They inspire our most valuable commodity: the rising generation.

To the Coach Morrows and Mrs. Dubberlys of the world, we salute you and thank you for the diamond-gift of learning.

William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for the QC Chandler Heights Stake. He will begin service July 2012 as a mission president.