gatesnotes
The blog of Bill Gates

A Teacher Who Changed My Life

Sign In
 
My Profile & Settings
Log out
GO
Your search for "", with selected filters, does not match any posts. Please try again with a different search term or reset filters.

Popular searches include: Books, Malaria, and Future of Food.
RELATED ARTICLES ON
Logout:


Become a Gates Notes Insider
- or - Sign up with email
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Send me updates from Bill Gates
Sign Up
Join the Gates Notes community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, subscribe to your favorite topics and more. We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Sign Up" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
Account Settings
VIEW & EDIT PROFILE
Your Information
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Password
Save
Cancel
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Your Interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Deactivate Account
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process. Deactivate account If you want to permanently delete your account and remove its content, please send us a request here.
Ok
Gates Notes Insider Sign Up FAQ

Q. How do I create a Gates Notes account?

A. There are three ways you can create a Gates Notes account:

  • Sign up with Facebook. We’ll never post to your Facebook account without your permission.
  • Sign up with Twitter. We’ll never post to your Twitter account without your permission.
  • Sign up with your email. Enter your email address during sign up. We’ll email you a link for verification.

Q. Will you ever post to my Facebook or Twitter accounts without my permission?

A. No, never.

Q. How do I sign up to receive email communications from my Gates Notes account?

A. In Account Settings, click the toggle switch next to “Send me updates from Bill Gates.”

Q. How will you use the Interests I select in Account Settings?

A. We will use them to choose the Suggested Reads that appear on your profile page.

Forgot your password?
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Reset Password
Change your header photo
your image
 
Change
your image
Uh Oh!

The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.

Ok
First name
Last name
Enter a first and last name. For example, "Richard Feynman"
Bio
0/160 characters
Edit Profile
Account Settings
Save
Cancel
Suggested Reads
Reset your password.
Set New Password
Your password has been reset. You will now be redirected to the sign in page, or you can click here
Ok
Get emails from Bill Gates
Send me updates from Bill
You must provide an email
This email is already registered
Continue
We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Continue" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
 
your image
Uh Oh!
The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.
Ok
Welcome FirstName!
You are now a Gates Notes Insider
Update Your Profile Information
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Select Your Interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Continue
Confirm
Are you sure you want to
deactivate your account?
Deactivating your account will unsubscribe you from Gates Notes emails, and will remove your profile and account information from public view on the Gates Notes. Please allow for 24 hours for the deactivation to fully process. You can sign back in at any time to reactivate your account and restore its content.
Deactivate My Acccount
Go Back
Your Gates Notes account has been deactivated.
Come back anytime.
Welcome back
In order to unsubscribe you will need to sign-in to your Gates Notes Insider account
Once signed in just go to your Account Settings page and set your subscription options as desired.
Sign In
Request account deletion
We’re sorry to see you go. Your request may take a few days to process; we want to double check things before hitting the big red button. Requesting an account deletion will permanently remove all of your profile content. If you’ve changed your mind about deleting your account, you can always hit cancel and deactivate instead.
Submit
Cancel
Thank You! Your request has been sent
Become a Gates Notes Insider for access to exclusive content and personalized reading suggestions
Sign up to receive occasional updates from the Gates Notes
Sign Up
Privacy Policy
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
This verification token has expired.
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
Your account has been deactivated. Sign up to re-activate your account.
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
A Teacher Who Changed My Life
 
Hello, . . My Profile & Settings
Log out
FOLLOW ME
It looks like you're using an older version of Internet Explorer which may not display all the features on this site. Upgrade Now » close
Out of My Shell

A Teacher Who Changed My Life

Three very strong women—my mother, my maternal grandmother, and Melinda—deserve big credit (or blame, I suppose) for helping me become the man I am today. But Blanche Caffiere, a very kindly librarian and teacher I’ve never written about publicly before, also had a huge influence on me.  

Mrs. Caffiere (pronounced “kaff-ee-AIR”) died in 2006, shortly after reaching her 100th birthday. Before she passed, I had an opportunity 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.

When I first met Mrs. Caffiere, she was the elegant and engaging school librarian at Seattle’s View Ridge Elementary, and I was a timid fourth grader. I was desperately trying to go unnoticed, because I had some big deficits, like atrocious handwriting (experts now call it dysgraphia) and a comically messy desk. And I was trying to hide the fact that I liked to read—something that was cool for girls but not for boys. 

Mrs. Caffiere took me under her wing and helped make it okay for me to be a messy, nerdy boy who was reading lots of books.

She pulled me out of my shell by sharing her love of books. She started by asking questions like, “What do you like to read?” and “What are you interested in?” Then she found me a lot of books—ones that were more complex and challenging than the Tom Swift Jr. science fiction books I was reading at the time. For example, she gave me great biographies she had read. Once I’d read them, she would make the time to discuss them with me. “Did you like it?” she would ask. “Why? What did you learn?” She genuinely listened to what I had to say. Through those book conversations in the library and in the classroom we became good friends.

Teachers generally don’t want to burden their students with extra reading beyond the homework they’ve assigned. But I learned from Mrs. Caffiere that my teachers had so much more knowledge to share. I just needed to ask. Up through high school and beyond, I would often ask my teachers about the books they liked, read those books when I had some free time, and offer my thoughts.

Looking back on it now, there’s no question that my time with Mrs. Caffiere helped spark my interest in libraries (Melinda’s and my first large-scale effort in philanthropy) and my focus on helping every child in America get the benefit of great teachers. I often trace the beginning of our foundation to an article about children in poor countries dying from diseases eliminated long ago in the U.S. But I should give some credit as well to the dedicated librarian and teacher who helped me find my strengths when I was nine years old. It’s remarkable how much power one good person can have in shaping the life of a child. 

Become a Gates Notes Insider for access to exclusive content and personalized reading suggestions

Read previous versions of the Annual Letter

Filed Under

Discussion
comments powered by Disqus