As an educational media studio, we’re aware of the impact that teachers can have in our lives. True "Keepers of the Flame," they help shape our minds and empower us to reach our potential. Many of us at FableVision are here today because teachers in our lives helped us seek out and find our North Star. In honor of Thank A Teacher Day, we went around the studio to ask FableVisionaries who their special teacher(s) were.

Margaret Riel

Paul Reynolds, CEO and Co-Founder
Margaret Riel, Graduate School
Margaret is a late entry into my Creative Educator Hall of Fame—but I sensed an ancient wisdom about her right from that first day I met her in my graduate studies program at Pepperdine University. Her gentle, caring nature, and her encouragement that we would rise to the occasion made a deep impression at a time when I wasn't sure I wanted to continue in the program. She said one thing that has echoed within me ever since, "I want you to become more powerful versions of yourselves." It hit my heart and my mind—and has been my fuel as I journey along.  Isn't it interesting that even one phrase can change a life?

 Didi with Ms. Norton 

Didi with Ms. Norton 

Didi Hatcher, Lead Animator
Ms. Melanie Norton, 9th Grade

Ms. Norton was my physical geography teacher in high school, and one of the teachers to leave the biggest impression on me. She was fresh out of college; she had come to a new country (Bulgaria), and had signed up to teach a subject different from what she was ultimately assigned. So she had a lot to learn on all fronts, but she taught herself the material, found her way around the country, and grew as a teacher in front of our eyes. She had incredibly high standards and expectations, both of herself and of us, and pushed us farther than we thought we could go. It was an English immersion high school, and I started off not speaking any English, so the cultural/linguistic element was part of my struggle too. But her example and her perseverance motivated me to keep pushing myself. Being able to identify with your teacher, and to share in a similar struggle, helped immensely. And she always believed I could do just a little better than last time, even if last time was perfect. She had bonus questions, bonus points, and bonus assignments for the students who wanted to go above and beyond. She taught me that there is no top. There's always room to grow better and reach higher.

Christina Kelly, Production Artist
Merry Beninato, 5-9th Grade

Merry was my introduction into private and focused art education. In her garage studio, she had lots of interesting items and trinkets that she encouraged her students to pull from to make unique compositions. She inspired me to decide how to challenge myself and where to look for art in the real world. If you were lucky enough to be her friend and long-term student, she had fun camping trips and retreats to the MSPCA to draw animals. I am so incredibly thankful to have had the doorway to the art world opened by her.

Ellen Hart, 11-12th Grade
Ellen Hart unlocked the treasure chest of opportunity for me when I felt like I was at my lowest. As the new kid who recently moved to a new town and knew no one, independent study art class was the retreat I didn't know I could have and needed so much. Ellen Hart and my other teacher, Ms. Nadeau-Tanner, gave me my own private half hour of the school day to use the photo-developing, art, and art supply storage rooms. Did I want to make a 5x5 foot painting? I was shown how to stretch the canvas. Did I want to take life-drawing classes? The name of a nearby place offering them was enthusiastically given to me. Ellen Hart made me feel like I was being invested in well before I was thinking about art professionally, and it has left a huge impact on me throughout my adult life.

Ric Allendorf, Sophomore/Junior Year of College
I feel very lucky to have had Ric Allendorf as a teacher at MassArt. Ric taught practical professional tips, as well as thoughtful poetic thoughts about how to look at shadows when the seasons change. Never a pushover either, he pointed out some stereotypes I had ingrained in my method of illustrating. I fondly remember him making homemade bread with everyone and that time when he made black walnut ink for everyone in my class. Every time his class was over, I’d realize that I didn't want to leave. His classes made me realize that learning was a lifelong passion.

Brian's family with Mr. and Mrs. Murray

Brian Grossman, Technical Director
Mr. Murray, 9th Grade

As a lover of math and science, I had always ranked my math and science classes above my language arts, social studies, and foreign language classes. That was until 9th grade English with Mr. Murray. His class was somehow more fun and interesting than any of my others. After doing a fair amount of teaching myself, I now appreciate that Mr. Murray never taught class “by the book.” As I look back at his class, I am amazed at the amount of time he must have put into crafting his lessons. In his class, I learned everything about the Greek gods, explored the fundamental archetypes of literature, and mastered how to “show” rather than “tell” in my writing. And if that weren't enough, I met Marci Levine (now Marci Grossman) my wife of nearly 20 years in his class.

Since our time together, Mr. Murray has become Mike. We get together regularly for dinners and drinks, catching up on our latest adventures and reminiscing about our time together in 9th grade English class.

 Leigh (pictured on the right) in high school

Leigh (pictured on the right) in high school

Leigh Hallisey, Creative Director
Dr. Edward Sokolowski "Socks," 11th Grade English

We were studying poetry in AP English (I still can recite "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening!”). Dr. Sokolowski taught us how to analyze a poem; every word, every punctuation mark, the historical context, every rhyme or lack thereof, for meaning and a window into the author's intent. One day, Dr. Sokolowski played us a song, "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, and said, "You can study song lyrics just like a poem," and had us focus on analyzing the instruments, rhythm, and vocalizations as well as words. My mind was blown. Later that week, he played us a music video he recorded on MTV, I think it was Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream," and added analyzing the visuals, editing, and camera movements into the mix. I would stay after class and after school to talk to him about music and film.

This class opened up a whole new world to me and I went on to study English, film, and television in college and then popular culture in graduate school. I really credit "Socks"—who was so kind, so smart, so encouraging, so engaging, so professorial in his cardigan with elbow patches—with helping put me on the path of being a media analyst and creator.

Bob in elementary school

Bob Flynn, Director of Art and Animation
Ms. Carter, 4th Grade

My 4th grade teacher Miss Carter encouraged me to draw. So much that she laminated four of my Ninja Turtle drawings and put them on the wall in the classroom. Right up front near the chalkboard! This was one of the first times I clearly remember a teacher valuing me for my passion, just as much as academic grades. I was a straight-A student, so I was used to being praised for the latter and appreciated the attention to my craft.

Jordan Bach, Developer
Mrs. Russell, 12th Grade

I lucked out with having so many inspiring, great teachers. To pick just one, Mrs. Russell taught me how to think critically and how to write. I learned to form my ideas into something with mass. In classroom discussions, she played devil's advocate, helping us to look more deeply. She challenged me, and I felt both frustrated and exhilarated. In the final weeks of senior year, with the trees budding and commencement nearing, she assigned a paper on Heart of Darkness. Who does that? She taught me I could expect more of myself.

Yvonne Bernardo

Mitul Daiyan, Marketing Coordinator
Yvonne Bernardo, College

I entered undergrad not fully prepared to take on college coursework; I couldn’t even write a proper essay! It was Professor Bernardo who took it upon herself to use her office hours to not just turn my writing into beautiful, thoughtful pieces but to show me the ins and outs of academia, listen to my stories, make me laugh, and be a mentor and friend. She invited me into her home and cheered me on when I needed the extra support. I owe a lot of my development to her and will never forget how much love and learning she has brought to my life.

Thomas Head

Thomas Head, College
Professor Thomas Head was an intimidating professor. I was terrified of both him and the rest of my classmates in the honors seminar that would change my life. I will forever be grateful to him for seeing through my shyness, for pushing me to apply to graduate school, for believing that I'd get in, for taking my parents out to dinner to convince them to let their Muslim daughter leave home to learn, for helping me scrounge up money so I could attend school, for all the empowering conversations that helped me feel less like an imposter. He passed away a few months before I graduated from Harvard so commencement day felt empty without him. There’s a sea of supportive people in my life but Tom will always stand out. I hope that I can do my best to honor his memory.

Mikaela with Mr. Barr

Mikaela Johnson, Production Assistant
Mr. Barr, 7th Grade

Mr. Barr was my 7th grade English teacher. He was one of the funniest teachers I’ve ever had. He’d send his classes into eruptions of laugher with his unparalleled jokes, wacky stories, and his famous “terminator walk” where he’d trot back and forth through the classroom in his favorite pair of clogs. He always made me feel comfortable in class, which was especially important give how shy a student I was. I will always be grateful for his warmth, humor, and patience.