The unlikely teacher who changed his life…

Produced & edited by Brian Diggs; cinematography by Anne Bannister, Brian Diggs & Taylor Harrison

Our Voices on Teaching series features diverse perspectives about the importance of the teaching profession and personal stories about teachers who helped give rise to the future.

Eric Hale is a second-grade teacher at David G. Burnet Elementary School in Dallas ISD. In 2021 he received the distinguished honor of Texas Teacher of the Year. His teaching journey began with a great teacher who saw and nurtured his potential.

There are teachers who leave indelible marks on our lives, shaping our futures with their care and dedication. Among them stands Mr. Gumpert, a teacher who changed the course of Eric Hale’s life. His story, a testament to the transformative power of love and belief in one’s potential, serves as an inspiration to all.

Despite differences in backgrounds, Mr. Gumpert recognized the inherent worth in each student. He was the first teacher to acknowledge Eric’s potential, pulling him aside with words of encouragement and motivation. The impact of his kindness and dedication resonates deeply with Eric to this day. 

Their interactions were not merely academic; they were moments of genuine connection. Mr. Gumpert’s influence extended far beyond the classroom, shaping Eric’s aspirations and guiding his journey towards success.

Now, as a teacher himself, Eric strives to emulate Mr. Gumpert’s legacy of impact and compassion. While perfection may elude him, his goal remains clear: to touch the lives of his students in meaningful ways, just as Mr. Gumpert did for him.

Video transcript

Eric Hale speaking:

This teacher was Mr. Gumpert. What stands out about Mr. Gumpert? To be honest with you, he was somebody that did not represent our community and our demographic. He was somebody that loved all children. He was actually the first teacher that took a liking to me. The first teacher that pulled me aside and said, you’re wasting your potential. 

He was the first teacher that introduced me to historically great African-American men. What stands out more than the fact that he was a Caucasian man was the fact that he took time to see the potential in me and see the power that I had; and he poured into that, and he nurtured it regardless of where I came from and the situations that I went home to. 

So what stands out the most about Mr. Gumpert is love. 

Mr. G literally changed my life. And he never got to see the awards. He never got to be on TV. He didn’t get any of that, but he poured in that type of support and love and nutrients that made me grow up strong, not knowing what I would be at all. 

We never talked about me being a teacher or anything about that. I was just trying to graduate high school. I would hug him and I would cry, to be honest with you. It would take about five minutes before I started talking. And mainly I would thank him. Thank him for doing more. It’s the personal effect that he had with me. 

He went above and beyond. And now, being a teacher myself, that is striving to try to go above and beyond. I can appreciate that. He probably wasn’t the best teacher in the world, but to me he was the most impactful. And so that’s my goal. I’m not trying to be the best teacher, but I am trying to be the most impactful.