As kids across the SouthCoast and beyond begin trudging back to school this week and next week, they will face several challenges. For a third consecutive year, the academic year is impacted by the ongoing COVID crisis. As a result, the kiddos and their teachers will need to mask up.

I give credit to the educators who are required to teach under such conditions. Instructing a classroom full of students while you and they are masked has got to be a challenge.

Let's hope our students will spend the entire school year in the classroom and not at the kitchen table learning remotely. Wherever they are, with or without a mask, a good teacher can overcome the obstacles and make learning fun and interesting.

With the start of the new school year, I think about some of the teachers who influenced me while a student in the New Bedford school system. Most were positive, but not all. I had a fourth grade teacher who referred to her Black students as "my monkeys." I knew even in 1967 is that wasn't good.

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Yet I also remember the great ones like Arthur Moyer, who brought "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Beowulf to life and gave me a lifelong appreciation for reading. John Sykes transformed himself into Hitler before the eyes of his spellbound students. Armand Marchand and George Charbonneau taught me to appreciate theater and live performance art. Rhoda Purcell taught me to learn about myself and to be aware of others. Those were great teachers. There were others.

A good teacher can be the difference in whether a student falls through the cracks or succeeds. A good teacher inspires, challenges, and guides young minds to search out new things. A good teacher is one you can remember even 45 years after graduation as someone who helped mold you into the person you are today.

There have been many great teachers who've inspired students in New Bedford and across the SouthCoast over the years. Do you remember a teacher who made an impact on your life? Tell me who it was and where.

In the meantime, thank you to all of the teachers who were forced to put up with me in their classroom, and thank you for helping me to become the person I am today. I am truly grateful to you all.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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