Teachers Heroes

Anne Sullivan

by Audra from San Diego

"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand" (Chinese Proverb). Teaching is a difficult job for anyone, but the best teachers have the student involved in some way.  For Anne Sullivan, it meant just being able to communicate with her student. Anne Sullivan was born in Feeding Hills in western Massachusetts in April 1866 (Gale). She was the oldest child of six and one of the three that survived into adulthood (Sisson). When Anne was six she developed trachoma, a bacterial eye infection that eventually resulted in her losing her eye sight later in life (Sisson). On March 3, 1887,  at the age of 20, she left for Tuscumbia, Alabama, to work with Helen Keller (Gale). Anne Sullivan was a hero because she tried her best with Helen by staying committed, never giving up, and putting others first. 

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan ( ())
Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan ( ())

As a child, Anne Sullivan,  had a lot of struggles, but she never gave up.  "She was the oldest of the three surviving children of Thomas and Alice Chloesy Sullivan. As the result of a fever at the age of six, Anne developed trachoma, a bacterial eye infection that can result in blindness. The illness, which went untreated, left her nearly blind." (Bailey).  Anne powered through these difficulties in her life. The fact that she was nearly blind and accepted the challenge to teach Helen was very admirable. Teaching Helen was her hardest struggle but her greatest achievement.  "One day, while spelling  w-a-t-e-r into Helen's palm as running water poured over their hands, Helen suddenly made the connection between the letters in her hand and the water she could feel running through her fingers" (World). When something was hard, Anne was determined to accomplish it and over come the challenge. Even though the times were hard, Anne Sullivan always used common sense and overcame the obstacles. She truly never gave up on anyone, even herself. 

Anne Sullivan was a committed teacher who always tried her best to help her students achieve their goals. When Anne saw Helen for the first time she had trouble getting through to her. "After an extremely difficult adjustment period, Sullivan worked to calm Helen down and gain her trust. She began trying to communicate with Helen through the manual alphabet she had learned at the Perkins School" (World). Anne was always able to stay focused on Helen and her job by not letting Helen's behaviors get in her way. She was committed to helping Helen learn and grow. Anne tried for a long time to reach out to Helen, "Once Keller understood that the words Sullivan communicated represented objects, she progressed quickly, and Sullivan was able to convey to Keller not only nouns but also verbs, adjectives, and even abstract concepts." (Sisson). Sullivan was a determined teacher by making sure her stubborn student, Helen Keller, was able to communicate with the world around her.  Sullivan was a great teacher because she helped Keller and did not quit when it got hard for both of them. Anne Sullivan was a very committed teacher who always had hope that her student would achieve her ultimate goal, which for Helen was to learn how to speak.

Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller ( ())
Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller ( ())

Even though Anne Sullivan had a difficult life, she still managed to make a huge difference and put others before herself, in other words, be selfless. For example, "Public interest in Keller continued unabated. Although Keller tried to direct some of the attention toward her teacher, Sullivan felt she did not deserve any special acclaim" (Sisson). With everything going on, Anne Sullivan always put her friend first. She did not want to take credit for teaching Helen to communicate because she felt like she did nothing to deserve it and put Helen before her own needs. Anne was not self- centered at all.  Anne had to read and trace into Helen's hands for almost six hours a day, (Gale). "Sullivan served as Helen's translator, spelling out the lectures into her palm, and reading to her through the use of the manual alphabet for long periods every day, while Helen was being praised as an excellent student" (World). Anne was so loving, she made sure Helen learned everything, even though she knew it would make her own eye sight go away.  Anne took time out of her day to read to Helen so she could be a good student. Anne Sullivan had a huge heart for others and wanted them to be happy before her.

Anne Sullivan inspires me and many others, in many ways by never giving up, staying committed, and putting others before herself.  Anne wanted what was best for Helen even before they were friends. She tried her best at whatever she did, and she always had a positive attitude towards everything that came at her. To me, that is what makes a hero. A great teacher does not just teach but involves the student in his or her own way to make the learning experience remembered.  Anne Sullivan not only involved Helen in her own way but made a life long friend along the way.  "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand" (Chinese Proverb). 

Works Consulted

Anne Sullivan Macy." World of Health. Gale, 2006. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 2 May 


Bailey, Ellen. "Anne Sullivan." Anne Sullivan (2007): 1. Biography Reference Center. Web. 6 

May 2012.

"Introduction - Introduction: The Miracle Worker." Introduction - Introduction: The Miracle 

Worker. American Foundation for the Blind, 2009. Web. 06 May 2012. 


Sisson, Amy, and Sisson Amy. "Anne Sullivan." Great Lives From History: The Twentieth Century (2008): 1. Biography Reference Center. Web. 9 May 2012.

"Perkins School for the Blind." Perkins. Perkins School for the Blind, 2004. Web. 09 May 2012. 


"Anne Sullivan." New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 4 Apr. 2004. Web. 09 May 2012. .

Page created on 5/18/2012 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/18/2012 12:00:00 AM

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