Bill Gates reflects on the teacher who inspired him the most and thanks educators for 'changing lives'

Philanthropist says his favourite teacher 'listened to what I had to say'

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Monday 24 August 2020 17:44 BST
Bill Gates reflects on his most inspirational teacher growing up in bid to get children back in school

Bill Gates has opened up about the importance of educators while reflecting on the teacher who made the biggest impact on his own life.

Speaking with CBS News for a segment celebrating teachers who will teach remotely and in the classroom amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Microsoft co-founder revealed that he credits his fourth grade teacher, Mrs Blanche Caffiere, for sparking his “love for learning”.

“Great teachers help students get excited about learning,” the billionaire philanthropist said. “Mrs Blanche Caffiere, a teacher at View Ridge Elementary School in Seattle was that kind of teacher for me.”

According to Gates, when he entered Mrs Caffiere’s class, he was a “very shy fourth-grader with a messy desk and terrible handwriting.”

As a student, Gates said he also tried to hide his love of reading, for fear he would be mocked by his classmates.

“I tried to hide the fact that I loved to read because I was worried it would look strange to my classmates,” he said, before recalling how “Mrs Caffiere pulled me out of my shell by sharing her love of books.”

“She pushed me to read challenging ones and then asked me interesting questions that made me think about what I’d read,” the tech entrepreneur said. “She listened to what i had to say.”

According to Gates, looking back on his experience as a student of Mrs Caffiere’s, there’s “no question” that her guidance helped inspire his love of learning - and instilled in him the importance of teachers.

“Looking back on it now, there’s no question that she helped spark my love for learning and helped to inspire the Gates Foundation's work to help every child in America get the benefit of great teachers,” the 64-year-old said.

Later in the video, Gates said he wanted to "thank you" to the teachers who are welcoming students back to their classrooms either virtually or in person.

"You're changing lives and doing amazing work," he said.

This is not the first time Gates has reflected on the late Mrs Caffiere’s impact. In 2016, he wrote about her in a blog post titled: “A teacher who changed my life,” in which he said he had been able to thank her “for the important role she played in my life, stoking my passion for learning at a time when I easily could have gotten turned off by school” before she died in 2006.

During the segment, notable figures including Chelsea Clinton, Josh Groban and LeVar Burton also reflected on the teachers who’d made the biggest impact on their lives.

“I’m so profoundly grateful to Dr Sadie Mitchell, who was my first-grade teacher at Forest Park Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas,” Clinton said, explaining that Dr Mitchell “set the bar for what an extraordinary teacher should be”.

According to Groban, he wanted to thank his high school theatre teacher Norman Cohen for giving him his first lead role in a play as well as his musical theatre teacher, while Burton said his most inspirational educator was his third-grade teacher Mrs Twig in Hanau, Germany, who used to ask him to read to the class while she stepped out to make a cup of tea because he was the “best reader” in his class.

“It was the first time in my life that somebody outside of my family recognised that I was good at something,” Burton said.

"Thank you to the great teachers and the arts teachers out there who are bringing a spark of humanity into our classrooms when we need it in this world more than ever," Groban concluded.

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