Inspirational educators

by Sheep Farmer

DD’s high school has what they term the “Wildcat Inspiration Awards program.” Seniors have the opportunity to nominate local school employees from elementary, middle, or high school who have had a positive impact on them. The PTA sponsors a ceremony where the students present awards to those whom they nominated. Last year’s group included a high school Latin teacher who helped a student overcome her dyslexia, a guidance counselor who helped a senior secure scholarships, and an elementary school teacher who nurtured a love of history in a student. Not only is this a great way to honor the educators, but it is also great opportunity for the students to let the teachers, coaches, and counselors know the positive influence that they have had on the lives of their students. Did you have any teacher, coach or professor that truly inspired you?


60 thoughts on “Inspirational educators

  1. Mr. Grabner and Ms. Gracie.

    Mr. Grabner: chemistry. Looked like a combination of Mr. Spock and Dracula — big, looming presence, very dark/thick eyebrows and slightly angular/severe features, fairly quiet and looked intimidating, but underneath it was a guy with a good heart who loved kids and was just flat-out excited about science. My clearest memory: he was describing the three types of motion in an atom: “You have translational [he walks across the room]; rotational [assumes ballerina posture and does dainty pirouette]; and vibrational [arms out, full-body shake]. And then sometimes you have more than one, or even all three [assumes ballerina posture and begins bouncing/twirling/shaking across room].” He is the guy who inspired me to take advanced chem senior year, who took me aside and told me about this thing called the AP test that could get me college credit, and who had me thinking seriously about a chemistry major until my college chem prof beat that out of me. One of the saddest days was when I came home on break a few years later to discover he had been diagnosed with leukemia and died 6 weeks later, and I was home just in time for the funeral. What a loss to every kid who could have learned from him over the next 20 years.

    Ms. Gracie: Senior English and school paper. She just thought I was freaking brilliant and encouraged me to get out of Dodge and go do great things. She was straight up and honest and fair and told me straight out when I screwed up and didn’t do a good job on something (e.g., I have a tendency to tell a story in chron order, so the journalistic approach of putting individual facts/quotes/paragraphs in order of decreasing importance was NOT intuitive to me, and being full of myself, I resisted). She was sort of the lovable irascible tyrant, kind of a Lou Grant type, but with a seriously dry sense of humor and wicked intellect.

  2. Many, many, many.

    I just reconnected with my 5th & 6th grade teacher, Mr. Evans on Facebook. All sorts of people I haven’t seen or spoken to in years were commenting, sharing memories of elementary school and his class. We all remembered Sesquipedalians – basically SAT words Mr. Evans taught to us in elementary school. Mr. O’Neill, my HS English and Latin teacher who called everyone Doctor [last name] and was the announcer at HS football games for decades. My godfather, who is a HS teacher, who convinced me to at least apply to an Ivy league school. Mr. Enright, my HS biology teacher, who wouldn’t let me skip out on taking AP classes and who never let me get away with not participating in class (I was the only sophomore in a class of juniors). So many more.

    My kids’ teachers so far. In a challenging public school environment, they are why my kids have gone to that school and why we stayed there as long as we have. Excellent, all of them!

  3. My softball coach – Mr. Miller who died last year. He was tough and hard to please so when you did please him you felt like you really accomplished something. My dad says they just don’t let coaches like him coach anymore which is a shame. I remember two fabulous history teachers from high school – Mr. Rouleau and Mr. Campbell. Both were very sarcastic with a dry sense of humor which made us love them and they taught history like a story. I still remember being completely enthralled with Mr. Campbell’s telling of the French Revolution.

  4. Thinking back – I had a lot of male teachers, starting with Mr. Evans in 5th grade, continuing through HS.

  5. Did you have any teacher, coach or professor that truly inspired you?

    I can’t say that I ever have. I will say that all my college professors were orders of magnitude better than my teachers in HS. How much was them, how much was me and how much was the system, I can’t really say. Being generous to all involved, I think the most likely explanation was that HS just wasn’t a good fit. The skills and temperament one needs to succeed in that environment, I just don’t have.

  6. Now I’m envious of those of you who had inspirational teachers because offhand I can’t think of any. I’m sure there were some that were very good, but particularly in elementary school I remember more being in awe of them. Later on I was a more cynical adolescent. YIkes, I was probably a big PITA in school.

    I changed my handle. My previous name referred to the price of higher education.

  7. I went to an all girls school and had all female teachers. Most were very good. They still get together with former students. Facebook has been great for keeping in touch.

    My kid’s school has so far had good teachers. There has been a spate of retirements so some of the teachers that taught older kid are no longer there. I wish they were but it doesn’t really matter. Dealing with any school matter is way easier the second time around. I know what to pay attention to and what to pass on.

  8. Some of the educators who meant a lot to me as I passed through the many levels of school:

    My 9th grade French teacher: In a junior high staffed mainly with perky blonde 20-somethings and old John Birchers, Mr. H was a breath of fresh air. He was a black man who looked to be 18, newly graduated with a teaching certificate and a degree in medieval studies. He dressed like Superfly, and was often hassled by the school security guards who thought he was a student. He could recite Beowulf in Old English, Chaucer in Middle English, and poetry of medieval Languedoc in Occitan. My junior high was almost half black kids, but they never took French – until Mr. H arrived. By the time my sibs went through they reported that there were black kids in all the French classes,. Most importantly, he challenged everyone’s stereotypes as to what a black male educator could be like. I believe he stayed there hie entire career, and retired maybe 5 or so years ago.

    Two of my CS professors at college: Bill Henneman taught my CS2 class and my artificial intelligence class. He had these nerdly black glasses and stringy hair, and would stop mid lecture, blinking his eyes, and say “Its a thing, yeah, its a thing”. When I, as a sophomore, found myself desperate to get out of my icky psychology major and into something techical, I ended up meeting with him to see if I could complete the entire CS curriculum in 2 years (all I had left on financial aid). He approached it as an interesting puzzle, and figured out a way to do it, and encouraged me to try. And then there was Leonid Levin, from whom I took mathematical logic, an advanced math class that was mostly taken by grad students. He had a thick accent and never wrote anything on the blackboard. But if you went to office hours, he would serve you tea and spend lots of time discussing the proofs with you. I loved that class, and went on to use a lot of what I had learned in my PhD thesis. Some years later, I was thumbing through a book of seminal contributors to computer science theory, and there he was.

    My PhD advisor Fred. He was the nicest, kindest, most encouraging advisor ever, in a field where PhD advisors are usually considered to be monsters.He was wellknown enough in his field that he could help us get hired at good schools, and he had lots of research money to fund us with. He had fun parties at his house, and most importantly, encouraged our research group to bond together as a real group. To this day, my fellow Fredpeople (that is what we called ourselves) are still the biggest help in my career. We still stick together. Fred went on to be a university provost, and then president, and died a few years ago of cancer. We were all very sad when that happened. It is still sometimes hard to think of a world without Fred.

  9. Also, after early elementary the school years of my kids are passing very quickly. To use the oft repeated sentence “I can’t believe it’s the end of the year already”.

  10. I also want to say that it feels really good to be on the other end of this. Back when I was teaching at Directional State U, there was an awards dinner for the top 2 or 3 graduates of each of the campuses of the State U system, held in the state capitol. The honorees got to invite their families, and their favorite professor. One year, a CS student won the award on our campus, and he chose ME! I was thrilled to go to the dinner. I still keep in touch – he is now the director of a project group at IBM Watson Research.

    More recently, I was at our university awards dinner, where various students get awards. Their families all come, which is nice because we get to meet the parents. Two years ago, as the dinner was ending, one of our graduating CS majors came up to me with her proud parents, stuffed a bouquet of flowers into my arms, said thank you, and asked her parents to take a photo of me and her together. Sweet, sweet ,sweet. She went on to the grad program at Columbia.

  11. I can’t really say that I had amazing high school teachers that were inspirational to me. But while I was in college I heard that my HS orchestra teacher left. She had been teaching in the district for something like 20+ years. Apparently she left because for all those years she was only part-time and was offered a full-time w/benefit position at another district. I was shocked to learn that she was part-time because she was always at school. It was definitely not a part-time position. Once I learned why she left I realized that you need to stand up and be paid what you are worth, even if it means leaving a comfortable place.

    My favorite teacher was in third grade. We studied a lot of geography and cultures. I loved it and can still remember how exciting her classroom was and how happy I was to be there. She really fed my appetite for learning. Not to mention she was an early adapter of computers. Mid 1980s and we were typing IM to her husband’s class in another district using a phone and a computer. Mind blowing!

  12. I liked my choir director, AP chemistry teacher and AP computer teacher. I’ve already told the story of how my AP computer teacher bothered to inspect the code I wrote rather than just mark it wrong because it wasn’t what he asked for. My AP chemistry teacher liked having someone who wanted to be a lab assistant and I liked learning how to do lab preps. That experience also told me I did not want to be a chemistry major. The choir director wanted us to sound like a college choir and helped everyone improve, even those of us who were not top tier musicians. Three of my classmates went on to careers in music, so in retrospect, I had very talented peers.

  13. For those of you choir singers and WWII fans, I’ve been listening to The Chilbury Ladies Choir on Audible. Set in England, it focuses on the lives of members of the choir as they experience the early days of WWII.

  14. Kid1’s kindergarten teacher is the teacher that stands out to me and I know will be a life-long stand-out for Kid1 (they still have a special relationship). She is at the highest level of the profession and truly appeared to reach each kid where they were and inspired them, created a love of learning, brought out their best. This at least seemed to be what she did with Kid1 and this sentiment is reflected by the other parents we know that had the privilege of her teaching. Some of my favorite memories of interacting with her as a parent was the call I received on a Saturday morning very early into the school year where she presented to me her impressions of Kid1, asked if that was consistent with what I would expect, and then gave me her plan to make Kid1 have a great year. Her impressions were spot on and her plan worked; Kid1 had a fabulous year. At our first parent teacher conference, she challenged me by letting me know my “method” of “teaching” reading (the dreaded nightly reading) was inconsistent with hers and that I was slowing down Kid1’s progress – she was right to call me out and Kid1 soared once my interference stopped. Kid1 blossomed socially (that early in the year conversation described some extreme introversion) and soared academically – while having fun and not thinking school was work. (We didn’t realize how valuable that experience was until Kid2 got the opposite with a different teacher; and “Mrs. G” helped us get on the path we needed to identify learning differences in my other child when we consulted her following a disastrous kindergarten experience for Kid2.)

    My kids have had other teachers since then, some of which are also stand-outs, but none has met the bar of Mrs. G.

    I also had some stand-out teachers – 11th grade English “as is a very weak word”; he challenged me and taught me more about writing than any other teacher I had; two college professors; a few high school science teachers (ironic since I fled science professionally and was so thankful for AP credit); an 8th grade social studies teacher who, in retrospect, taught me about respecting educators (definitely did not provide her the respect she deserved).

  15. Kerri – that book sounds great. A little like Call the Midwife maybe, in that the times are tough but the experience is through everyday lives? And of course the setting. I’m going to look for this one!

    I don’t know about terrific teachers or profs until law school, when I had a prof who really changed my life in a few ways. We are still in touch and I was able to write a letter on his behalf when he was up for tenure, and I loved being able to repay him in that small way.

    DD had 2 teachers and a guidance counselor who were terrific – I just had her deliver thank you notes and gift cards to them this week.

  16. I don’t know that I had any teachers that inspired me, but I am grateful for my high school math teacher. He took a group of us to a state math competition every year between sophomore and senior years. It was nice that someone cared enough to show us some colleges and to take us to the ocean and to San Francisco.

    My daughters have had a spectacular ag/speech teacher, He was directly responsible for the older one’s speech victories and for several of the younger one’s triumphs. He is the reason we stayed at the bad school for as long as we have.

  17. Risley – the book reminds me of another (whose name I forget) about a group of women in small town who worked on establishing a library, set in late 1800s/early 1900. One women was married to a country doctor. (Darn – I hate when I can’t remember a name. HM may have recommended that book.) Basically both are books about women in small towns coming together in a social group to support each other. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character via a diary or letter.

  18. I’m very lucky to have a number of teachers who helped me along the way.

    My remedial math and reading/phonics teacher encouraged my parents to fight the school when they wanted to label me “slow”. She saw potential in me that they didn’t and she fostered it. By the time I left her classroom, I was a grade level above (in 3rd grade, I was doing 4th grade work in math and reading). Thanks to her, I was able to get into the honors programs in middle and high schools. With that label, I would have fallen through the cracks.

    In HS, I had a fantastic history teacher. He made modern European history (from the French Revolution to the Cold War) come alive. I still remember how he taught us certain key historical events. And that we got to play Risk (a version of it) in school over a week as a way to learn how empires are created and defeated.

    I had a number of great profs in college. One set me on my path today and unfortunately he passed way too young a few years ago. The other “diagnosed” me with dyslexia. She recognized my troubles in her math class, and worked with me to hone the skills I had already been developing because I knew throughout school that something wasn’t right. Thanks to her, I made it through some very difficult math classes. Definitely a few other memorable ones.

    My PhD advisor is probably my greatest teacher. The academic family he built (like MM mentioned above) has helped me in so many ways. My advisor passed halfway through my program, and his former students kept me going. They were there when I chose a new advisor, and I still work with many of them today. I’ve been talking about his greatest lesson – the 3 C’s of writing – lately as we are finishing up this report… Clear Concise Correct. (I added a 4th – Compelling).

    I could write more… but I have to get back to work!

  19. “The choir director wanted us to sound like a college choir and helped everyone improve, even those of us who were not top tier musicians. Three of my classmates went on to careers in music, so in retrospect, I had very talented peers.”

    I had almost exactly the same experience in my high school choir. Mr. C used to play recordings of St. Olaf’s College Choir as inspiration. Two of the kids from my day became professional opera singers too, and in interviews credited this teacher with jump-starting their careers. My sister and I have sung with numerous choral groups since high school, and we still remember what he taught us about breathing and especially WATCHING the director rather than burying your head in the music. Based upon what I see at my current summer church choir gig, Mr. C should have been cloned.

  20. [Off-topic rant, feel free to ignore]

    So if you read my rant last week about the guy blowing me off, well, the whole deal just fell apart, because the client that we TOLD him wouldn’t waive the conflict just told us it wouldn’t waive the conflict, and this guy won’t dump his existing client. The frustration is that there might have been a way around it, if he had paid attention way back in that first week when I was telling him what a big deal this would be for some of our clients, this one in particular. But, no, he had gotten waivers like that all the time, there’s really no problem here, so he brushed me off, so we wasted significant time getting going on that, and in the end ran out of time to try to work it through the client.

    So now after bending over backwards to try to expedite getting these guys onboard to meet their schedule (which, in all fairness, was tight through no fault of their own), we now get to run around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to unwind things, figuring out if all are going or just a few, and just basically figuring out wtf do we do now. Ugh.

    At some point I will, once again, have billable work. Maybe.

    And I’ve hurt my back again so I can’t even go to Crossfit and work off the frustration!! Apparently one can’t really go from “not rowing at all” to “rowing two miles for Murph,” and then following that up with single-minded determination to win the overhead dumbbell press competition. Or, well, one *can*, but not without repercussions. (But, hey, my team won, which is of course all that counts)

  21. “I changed my handle. My previous name referred to the price of higher education.”

    Makes me wonder what happened to June and April.

  22. Ahhh, July, couldn’t you have chosen another handle with the same initials at least, so I could use the same shorthand? Now I have to retrain my fingers — not fair! ;-)

  23. Three of my children had one particular high school educator (respectively, coach and counselor; English; chemistry) who had a profound effect on helping the child look at him/herself as a person who should expect and deserved success in life. The fourth, not so much, but she rarely encountered bad educational situations which required a countervailing influence. Most of my teachers just left me alone, but some abdicated responsibility for educating me or particularly in secondary school tried to cut me down to size. Obviously I had good professors and advisors in college and grad school. But I wasn’t good at active learning or engaging with my teachers, and I know that a couple tried to do more for me.

  24. Today is the last day of school for my kids’ school. I hope DS is taking the opportunity to, as I suggested, visit and thank the teachers he’s had, especially the ones that particularly inspired him.

    He did ask us to buy some grad photo folders, and spent a lot of time writing notes to some of his favorite teachers. I hope he didn’t forget his favorites from elementary and middle school.

  25. I only recall one teacher from my k-12 experience who really inspired me, my 4th grade SS teacher. But I wasn’t a kid that needed a lot of inspiration, and I had a lot of teachers who not only tolerated my reading under the desk in class, but encouraged it, e.g., my 6th grade SS teacher suggested I read the parts of our text that we weren’t going to cover.

    I had one especially inspirational prof in my undergrad years, who made a whole bunch of students get excited about solid state physics, and was able to build a solid state lab almost completely with donations he solicited from his contacts in industry and student labor. He was my senior project advisor, but in our advising sessions, he’d spend a lot of time on other stuff– I remember him explaining mutual funds to me in one session.

  26. Regarding students thanking teachers – my dad was a college professor (I think I’ve mentioned before that he was C student who worked hard, and in return offers a scholarship to C students). After he retired he received emeritus status and there was an awards dinner. It was the first time I had witnessed the impact my dad made on people. A few former students gave speeches thanking him for his mentoring and guidance. It was awesome to witness. So if you ever get a chance to tell a teacher thanks with their family around do it.

  27. My 1st grade teacher was the best teacher in the world. She could teach ANY KID – and did – for about 50 years in our district. I took my kids to see her when we went back to my hometown, until unfortunately she got Alzheimer’s (a difficult type) a few years ago.

    Then I had no good teachers until 4th grade (pretty good) and a G&T teacher I really liked in 6th grade, but she was only there half time (like 3 classes a week). I had a few good HS teachers but only my 9th and 11th grade English teachers stood out, and my chem teacher (although I was never a big science person). I am sorry that my math teachers weren’t better in HS, because they turned me off taking any further math in college.

    My best college professor was a visiting one – we nominated him for the teaching award and I think the administration and the rest of the history department was a bit peeved. But we got to have a nice dinner and chortle together about Tudor history, which was fun!

  28. Last day of school for DD#2; technically DD#1’s doesn’t let out until tomorrow with graduation tomorrow night. While no tests other than Tuesday, she has made a trip to school every day in the process of buying/selling books/uniforms and tomorrow night the band plays at the graduation. I think the end of year stress makes it hard for them to think in terms of thankful or inspiring. Though, the seniors whose last day was more than a week ago seem to have those feelings.

    Personally, my 2nd Grade teacher was one of my favorites – mainly because of how she managed to make every child feel like a successful reader regardless of where you were on the reading spectrum. My 5th Grade teacher had a significant impact in imparting personal and academic discipline, but that can only be viewed postitively decades after the experiece. At the time, it felt like being pulled through hell. Middle school was just a nightmare for me and the teachers who sucked the life out of me are, unfortunately, the most memorable. In high school, my 9th grade English teacher stands out, as does my band director, and my math teacher (both 10th and 12th grades) and my physics teacher. Not so much as directly inspiring, but helped me see myself and the world around me from different perspectives.

  29. My kids graduations from elementary, middle and high (or bridging, as it is called for grades other than the 12th), will be celebrated first by a service of Thanksgiving. Apart from the religious aspect, I find it offers time for reflection as a parent. I also get to see all the other parents, teachers and administrators all in one place (I don’t go to school that often now that my kids are older). The whole school community is together, that’s what I like most about it.

  30. I have several teachers that I loved, and I kept in touch with a few because my parents remained in the same neighborhood in the Bronx and I would occasionally see them in the diner. My 4th and 5th grade teachers were amazing. There were very large classes in the mid 70s because that was when NYC was practically bankrupt and both of these teachers managed classes of 36 kids with no aides, but some how managed to teach all of us. They even found extra paper and supplies when it just didn’t exist. I went to that specialized HS, but very fews of my teachers were memorable. One chemistry teacher and three of the English teachers. Even now when some of my classmates start to go on and on about teachers, they always mention the English teachers. They really were an amazing crew.

  31. Also, I had 2 totally transformative choir directors at choir camp when I was in HS. I can still bring myself exactly back to those moments if I try – they were both really amazing even though I only sang under them for a couple of weeks.

  32. I had a lot of really good teachers but none that were inspirational or anything like that.

    LfB, that totally sucks.

  33. My 3rd year HS Spanish teacher. He really encouraged me and recommended I pursue an exchange program which I did for 6 months to Central America. Came back pretty fluent and it shaped my decision to go for my junior year of college in Spain. It was a Spanish language program all the way; regular classes at the University taught by professors who really did not speak English. Absolutely great (for me); I know for many others the all Spanish all the time thing would not be enjoyable. That experience was life changing for a lot of reasons.

  34. AFAIK our school does not have a regular way to honor teachers with awards. I suspect the students would vote for popular “cool” teachers. The outstanding employee I would nominate would be my kids’ guidance counselor who was always supportive and knowledgeable, truly head and shoulders above almost anyone else that I’ve observed there. The creepiest teacher award would go to the HS biology teacher who surveyed the girls in his class (by a show of hands) about what age they were when their periods started. Ewww.

    Our school does have an annual volunteer award for the community member who contributed the most. We have some amazing volunteers who give loads of their time, although imo some of them go overboard in trying to control their fiefdoms.

  35. July, does your PTA have Jenkins Awards? Our district had the annual awards last night. Two teachers and two community volunteers were honored. I never met the special ed teacher that was selected, but I got teary from the speech about her contribution to her students.

  36. RMS,

    It looks like they totally missed the actual policy responsible for the incident – namely the ridiculous prohibition on alcohol.

  37. Totebagger regulars rave about the usefulness of packing cubes. I want to get in on the goodness, but don’t get it. Is the main advantage that they require you to be more organized?

    When I travel to one destination, I usually start with pants and narrow skirts, folded in half, laid across the bottom of the carry-on bag. Then come any skirts or dresses with a wide skirt, bodice folded like a shirt, skirt spread out. Next are sweaters, folded in half with arms crossed like an X. Then come shirts and exercise clothes, usually two stacks. Sock and underwear go around the edges. Toiletries are in an outside pocket in their plastic baggy. Special outfits are packed together. When I arrive, the stacked stuff gets plunked in a drawer, the sweaters in another drawer, (possibly folded in half one more time), and then I do a sweep of all the remaining things and drop them in a third drawer.

    There are other Eagle Creek products that I understand intuitively. If I wore blouses frequently, I can see how folders would be helpful. Compression packs could help me fit more sweaters in on winter trips. If I frequently traveled to multiple destinations, I can see how a cube would subdivide my things so I wouldn’t accidentally pick something from the wrong pile. Are my travel/wardrobe just not the kind that benefit from this kind of system?

  38. Now that you mention it I believe our PTA did sponsor Jenkins Awards, but I don’t recall very much about them except repeated calls for nominations. I must not have paid much attention or maybe they didn’t promote them much.

    I’m not sure that that prohibiting alcohol is the cause of the horrible fraternity incident. The dead student’s parents seem to focus more on hazing and the administration’s lax treatment of criminal and reckless behavior. In any case colleges are caught between the law and common sense in how they treat underage drinking.

  39. I’m not sure that that prohibiting alcohol is the cause of the horrible fraternity incident.

    The reason they didn’t call 911 when he fell the first time (when he would have just been concussed) was because they were afraid of getting in trouble.

  40. I don’t think I have had any inspirational educators. But I did have some very good ones, and judging by what people here have written, many more than average who did a decent job of teaching the subject that they purported to teach. So, yay for my public school education!

    Re: packing cubes. I have had them for years. I find them most beneficial when I am packing the kids’ stuff with mine and don’t want their little stuff to get mixed up. I put their socks, underwear and pajamas in cubes to keep them organized. I don’t find them helpful for my stuff unless it is a multi-location trip. Then I use them to keep clothes for different locations organized and I can just pull out the appropriate cube at each location.

  41. @ At the foot – I have never used packing cubes, just the ziploc travel bags (which wear out after one or two trips) that come with the big vacuum storage bag sets for trips where I have a severe luggage limit. However, all of the posts on packing cubes inspired me to pick up a few (knock off, not eagle creek) to fill out an order amount to get discount and free shipping. My feelings have always been exactly as yours, but I will report back in our July trip report as a skeptic but possible convert.

    Purchase assistance, please. I am looking for a modest SLR digital camera, small. I have always used the pocket Lumix for trips, but with three big scenery ones coming up, I thought it reasonable to upgrade.

  42. If they expanded the existing Good Samaritan provision that would address this at least partly.

  43. Meme, Canon has good deals on refurbished ones on their website, at least they did last fall when we got one for DS.

  44. I always find myself so space constrained when I pack. It seems to me that packing cubes would just take up extra space. My biggest issue when packing is shoes. For example, I am heading to a conference in Italy in a few weeks. I will be gone for a week. I would like to take my running shoes so I can exercise during that week, but if I do, I won’t be able to fit the “professional” shoes that I need for the conference (I plan to wear comfy, decent for walking, slip on shoes for the plane). I usually try to not check any bags. But the size constraints for carryons is so teeny that my running shoes take up a quarter of the bag, My second carryon (the “personal size bag”) is filled with my laptop, aux battery, and materials I need for the conference.

  45. My shoes typically take up half my carry-on bag. (Foot issues) Consequently, I go very minimal on clothes.

  46. Next time I see them on sale I may buy packing cubes only because so many travelers rave about them!

  47. MM,
    Running shoes take up so much space that you really have to wear them on the plane if you want to avoid checking luggage. My solution was to find the low sneaker type of shoe that others have posted about, which can either be shoved into the suitcase or worn on the plane without looking like you’re wearing running shoes on the plane. They aren’t as good as running shoes if you’re going to run, but they are fine for brisk walks.

    Re the packing cubes — IME they are most useful for multi-stage trips or where the destination lacks shelves or dresser space. They were a game changer for me because most of my trips fit that description. And though college DS thought he didn’t need them to pack for his multi-country Europe concert tour, he had a conversion experience while trying to organize concert and general clothes in a carry-on and ended up taking many of my cubes (which are now his cubes) with him.

  48. So maybe I am more of a poster child for packing cubes, because I struggle with organization and worry about forgetting things (for good reason — my last Taos trip I forgot to pack my entire shirt drawer!). What I like is the ease when I get there. I typically do bottoms in one, tops in one, socks/underwear/etc. in one, and the like. And then when I get there, I just toss the cubes in the appropriate drawer/shelf. So instead of putting in and taking out 15 separate items, I am plopping 3-4 cubes and am done. And then I live out of the cubes (they unzip along 3 sides = easy access), use a spare one for dirties, and slide them all back in when it’s time to go. It is both faster and less likely to leave me forgetting something in a drawer somewhere.

    I have also used them for different locations (e.g., the jammies and change of clothes in one for the last night at the airport hotel), and that works, too.

    The caveat is that I only do this for long trips where I’d check luggage anyway. If I have a two-day business trip where I am packing three outfits + jammies, who cares? But if I have my big suitcase with 40 different items of clothing in it, it definitely saves time unpacking and repacking.

  49. I can’t wear running shoes for anything other than actual running. I find them very uncomfortable, plus they are too hard to deal with in security lines.

  50. Minimalist running shoes (like the Nike Free ones below) are good for packing because they are thin & light and crush down pretty small, but they aren’t great for running on any surface that’s not perfectly smooth. So great for hotel gyms or smooth paved paths, but when running on a gravel/dirt path or doing any other sort of outdoor sport, I tend to twist my ankles in them.

    (These are youth, but I sometimes buy youth shoes since I can fit into a Youth 5 most of the time.)!g!c!nobr!&k_clickid=3e1512f7-d0a6-40de-a92a-1b320a0177dd

  51. Those shoes are also stretchy which makes them easier to take on/off in the security lines. I regretted wearing them to Denver though because they were not the best for hiking for the reasons above. I also am an idiot and didn’t realize that there would be snow in RMNP in late spring.

  52. I have those minimal shoes you describe, Scarlett, but I can’t run in them – not enough support. And running is what I want to do. At a conference, my exercise time is short, so I need the efficiency of running.

    Organization is not really an issue for me. Most hotels have places to hang things, so I place entire outfits on each hanger. And even on multistage trips, I just wear the same things for all stages, so I don’t need to separate stuff.

  53. Rocky, they want to change frat culture to fit the pic alums usually try to sell to the rest of us? Good luck with that, lol.

    Laura, I’m sorry about all your wasted time & billable hours. On the upside, this jerk will not be a recurring thorn in your side.

    On topic, I caught the eye of numerous teachers who inspired and pushed me along the way. I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the case for every regular here.

  54. I don’t have packing cubes either. I do have one of the folders, but think it would be more useful if it wasn’t super-sized. We rarely take that many things that need to be folded (other than DS’ khaki shorts, which are an awkward side for it). It sounds to me like Unbeliever does what LfB does, just without the cubes. I love the idea of a “last night” kit. It’s always awkward to leave luggage open to slip various things in later.

  55. Mooshi, I bet you could get away with tying your shoes together by the laces and dangling them from your under-seat bag. It doesn’t look professional, but working out is one kind of non-professional that’s more likely to bring respect. And you’re tenured.

  56. One more thing on the packing cubes: if it’s a trip long enough to have 40 clothes items (so a few weeks), I like the “settling in” time unpacking, hanging things up, etc. If I’m going to change locations several times during that, I’d probably want the cubes. They would have been nice on a trip I’ve mentioned on here before–from Germany to my parents in Florida, to a conference in Vegas, back to my parents’ and back home to Germany, all with a 6 year old. Would have been nice to leave the child with his grandparents, but packing cubes might be second best.

  57. I think if you are naturally organized, packing cubes are not essential. I am not naturally organized, so they are helpful to me.

  58. I’m not naturally organized (understatement!). I’d be perfectly capable of not taking shirts, whether they were in a drawer or a cube. But how do you pack a suit case chaotically? Not fold things?

  59. Mooshi, do you make use of the space inside your running shoes when you pack them?

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