A Closer Look: Theresia Gouw on the Impact of Teachers
Quick—think about the game-changing figures in your life. Who are the first people to come to mind? Chances are teachers are prime among them—they're the seminal figures who inspire and guide us when we're most malleable. Think back to yours, and the ways he or she has made an impact on the person you are today...
As part of our #VBGIVESBACK partnership with DonorsChoose, which funds public school classrooms across the country, we asked board member Theresia Gouw to do the same. Read her story below and how one kind and supportive elementary school teacher set her on a course to her powerhouse career today—entrepreneur, investor, TED speaker, nine-time honoree of Forbes Midas List, and named one of Harper's Bazaar's Most Powerful Moms in the World, Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women, Time Magazine's 40 Most Influential Minds in Tech, Carnegie Corporation’s annual Distinguished Immigrants List...
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Theresia Gouw at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2019, photographed by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch
When I was in the first grade, I had to switch schools because my dad had graduated from getting his dental license to practice in the US and we were moving cities to start his career. You can imagine how daunting this is for a young child. However, my new teacher Mrs. Hyde made me feel welcomed right away. Her kindness, support and thoughtfulness was instrumental in helping me navigate through a pivotal time in my childhood.
I remember my very first day. When I walked into the classroom, Mrs. Hyde took me by the hand and walked me around, introducing me to everyone and everything, like the little cubby where I could hang my coat and things like that. She had such a warm personality and she even kept an eye on me on the playground, during recess, to make sure I found friends.
I remember she asked me what I liked about school and what I was interested in. It was the first time an adult had asked me those questions. I told her I liked reading and that I was a bookworm. She then encouraged me by getting a bunch of books she thought I'd enjoy and challenged me to read a hundred books before summer, which I did, and I loved it.
“Mrs. Hyde gave me the confidence to follow my curiosity, which has served me well in my career as a venture capitalist.”
She would prompt me with ideas on which books I might like, but ultimately she empowered me to choose books that I was most curious about and wanted to read. I read fables from various countries and different cultures. There were a lot of books about outer space—at the time, I thought I wanted to be an astronaut. She really helped me lean into the things I found interesting and, for a child, that really sets you off, right? Discovering what you’re passionate about, whatever that may be.
Mrs. Hyde gave me the confidence to follow my curiosity, which has served me well in my career as a venture capitalist. When it comes to investing in tech startups, I’ve found a curious mind has something new to learn every day. Understanding emerging technologies or new or evolving business models energizes me. The act of learning is something I am passionate about, which is still as true today as it was in first grade. Mrs. Hyde helped inspire that.
As a mom, I see the impact that teachers have on my own children. Similar to my experience with Mrs. Hyde, both have had teachers who made a difference in their lives. For my oldest, it was their second-grade teacher who was always upbeat and had an incredible talent to pull students (and parents) to a happier place. I'm smiling right now just thinking about her! And for my youngest, who tends to be shy, it was their fourth-grade teacher who encouraged them to ask questions and self-advocate. She gave them the comfort and confidence that now, when my child doesn’t understand something, they raise their hand or email the teacher for clarification—which is not only amazing for their education but a great life skill to have.
As a parent, you can see when a light turns on for your child, like the “lightbulb” metaphor. My children are excited and energized when inspired. I'm very thankful for all the teachers they've had, but especially grateful to the ones who switched the light on for them, the way Mrs. Hyde did for me.