Teachers, Which Former Student Surprised You the Most Later in Life? Here’s What People Said.

People can really surprise you sometimes, don’t you think?

For example, I know a guy who was a hardcore punk rock dude when we were young and we all thought he’d end up going nowhere fast.

Wanna guess where he is now?



Teachers of AskReddit talked about the former students who surprised them later in life. Let’s see what they had to say.

1. Former bad boy.

“I had a student that used to get into fights and was extremely aggressive and violent towards others, on the last day of fifth grade his last words to me and his class were “f**k you!”

Many years later he came back to the school I’d been teaching at and looked for me so he could give me a big hug and apologize. In his words, “I was garbage when I was here, thank you for putting up with me and I’m sorry”.

I cried like a baby – I was so proud of him.”

2. An inspiration.

“I taught in a low income, high immigrant community for my entire career.

I loved where I taught and still have tremendous fondness and admiration for the community, as powerfully challenging as it was to teach a population with such limited resources.

I had a student in 3rd grade who was sweet, kind, and goofy, but the typical never-do-homework, mediocre-to-poor grades type at the time. When I moved up to teaching middle school and had him again in 6th grade, little had changed—I liked him as a person quite a lot, but academically and effort-wise he was a solid Meh C/D student.

Fast forward a decade or so: I had to retire from the classroom early and a bit abruptly due to a health crisis, resulting brain surgery, and the aftermath. This devastated me. At the time, I posted about how much I missed teaching and my heartbreak over it on my Facebook page.

This now adult student, who had added me as a friend but rarely to never posted anything anywhere on FB, commented the most heartwarming words about what an inspiration I’d been and how he felt I’d started him on the path that led him to a degree in chemical engineering from a major university. He was the first in his family to go to college, nonetheless earn a degree.

His kind and generous words made me weep, and his academic success left me stunned. If you had asked me back when he was in 3rd or 6th grade which student would be the one to earn a degree in engineering, I think I would have gone through 2/3 of the class before I’d have even thought of him.”

3. Way to go!

“I teach English as a second language and I had a kid who spoke Arabic who barely could master English in the beginning (to be expected of course). Well 8 years later he’s on his way to being an astrophysicist.

He came to school to find me to tell me last year and I’ve never had a prouder moment teaching. He told me I was the only one who believed in him.”

4. Large and in charge.

“There was a very skinny quiet kid who was super smart. The other kids picked on him quite a lot but he never stood up for himself.

I always thought he would work for NASA or something as he was so smart. I saw his Linkedin a few months ago and he is now a prison officer at a maximum security prison.”

5. Didn’t see that coming.

“I was teaching 3rd grade.

I had a kid that would literally shoot spitballs in class. Through a straw. Kid would bring his own straws to school and chew notebook paper to shoot. This happened every day, probably seven or eight times a day I’d catch him doing it. He would just start f**king with other kids, poking them with pencils and s**t loudly in the middle of class.

Now, I h**e sending kids to the principle because I feel it undermines my authority in the class. This kid was different though. He got sent to the office average twice a week. Just couldn’t deal with it. He goes onto highschool. I don’t hear good things about him. I don’t hear much just that he’d fallen in with a bad crowd.

It’s 2005 when I’m teaching him in 3rd grade. Flash-forward sixteen years and I pull up to a red light on my way home from work. Red Lamborgini. Who is sitting there in the driver’s seat? Of course this kid. No sunglasses, actually he had pretty nerdy/hip Jefferey Dahmer glasses on.

“Mr. Igot!” He says. And he smiled at me. Seemed really genuinely happy to see me. I didn’t even had time to compose myself, realize it was THIS kid and respond before the light turned green and he rocketed off. He had this smile on that I’ll never forget. Good for him!”

6. Wow.

“I taught Gym and had a little dude who excelled in my class but was a thug in everything else. My wifes food truck catered for a bike run where a lot of Outlaw MCs took part.

I saw the kid there and he was now the President of his own Outlaw MC… He remembered me and introduced me to his old lady and other gang members..I was super proud of him…”

7. It was worth it.

“Three of my former students went into my field and actually came back to work for me at my school for internships.

One of them was no surprise. One only a little surprise. But the third drove me nuts. He was a huge problem child in class. This was the kid that make me sympathize with Homer Simpson’s str**gling reaction to Bart. But I kept my cool of course!

And he’s now a respected professional in the field. He still credits me for his career path. I feel like all the stress he put me through was worth it!”

8. You never know.

“Never surprised by the jobs they do. Some make it, some don’t and there’s little to help you to predict.

I get some surprise sometimes when I see them but even that only lasts for a fleeting moment.

The fit, athletic kid who is now morbidly obese, the tiny, pretty quiet girl with 3 kids at 18 chain smoking at the school gate. The kid who you only remember because his name was on a class list who is now an international Ice skating champion. The fat kid who was always in trouble, coming to collect younger cousins looking dashing in his suit and tie…

You go through thousands of children. You love them and care for each of them whilst they are in your care but, the truth is, whilst you want each and every one of them to go on and live happy and healthy lives (even the naughty ones), you quickly accept that once they leave, they are no longer your responsibility. You don’t ‘track’ them or follow them – you don’t have the time because, once they are gone, another group of needy individuals arrive who require your undivided attention.

Don’t get me wrong – we love it when former pupils become successful (in happiness – not finance) and return as adults to tell us so. It’s our collective dream for all of you. But we won’t be following your lives. We don’t have the mental capacity for it.”

9. Look at him now!

“A student whose social skills were non-existent and whose academics were equally as troubling is now in college taking nuclear physics.

I swear he was easily 3 grades behind when I knew him in junior high.”

10. Crazy!

“One girl who used to be so shy. Always stay on the last bench. Was friends with only one girl. Barely had any social skills.

She went on to become the biggest superstar in Indian cinema (Bollywood).”

11. This is messed up.

“I taught pre-K, for about 3 years, almost 30 years ago.

I taught, in separate years, two boys who would go on to be m**dered, together, before even graduating high school. They were t**tured by an adult psychopath, in a flophouse drug apartment, naked, bound, begging, in front of a captive audience including some kids they’d known as long as they’d known each other. They were stuffed into the trunk of a car, driven to the gas station, marched to an area just out of sight of several businesses, doused in gasoline, set on fire, and shot ex**ution style.

The man who shot them was mentally ill to start with, but also used meth to the point of near-constant psychosis. He’d just been cleared for discharge after a 72-hour involuntary psych hold, and had only been home two days. He was still in acute, paranoid psychosis, but had been assessed/evaluated by inpatient psychiatrists as safe to discharge home.

They were the same age as my child. They knew each other from first grade on. They had a lot of closer friends in common, some of whom I’d also taught way back all those years ago. Some of whom had been unwilling witnesses to their friends’ t**ture in the hours leading up to the m**ders.

One of them committed s**cide a week later.

Anyway, I’m now a practitioner in ER and ICU, and have been for 20 years. Spent several years at a Level One Trauma and Burn hospital. Got really familiar with the terrible things people do to themselves and others. None of it hit me like these d**ths had. I hadn’t been desensitized yet, and I’d taught these kids how to tie their shoes and write their names, they’d been in classes, on field trips and sports teams, to birthday parties with my son for so many years.

The way their lives ended (or were irrevocably changed) was as shocking as it was gruesome.”

12. She’ll do big things.

“I started in elementary school. One of my first students I had when she was in 3rd grade.

Her father was ab**ive when she was younger and mom left him and was raising her on her own, but her mom was also heavily involved in gangs. She was very behind compared to the rest of the kids, but she was always very helpful to the other children, me, and the staff. I had a soft spot for her and she ended up being one of my favorites. Teachers will often say they don’t have favorites, but that’s a lie.

A couple years later I was moved to 5th grade and I had her again, she was struggling a lot by this time, but still, I never gave up on her, and she never gave up either. Later, when she was in 8th grade, I was moved to middle school, and once again, I had her again. By this time her mom’s lifestyle had had an influence. She always wore red, threw up gang signs, and used to get into a lot of fights at school.

One thing that was different was she had caught up academically with the rest of her peers, and actually even surpassed many of them. She used to come by after school and started seeing me as a mentor, and we had a connection, as I too was heavily involved with gangs in my teens and early 20s. When she moved on to high school, she kept in touch, her high school was across the street and she used to come by after school all the time to check in.

She eventually got involved in student body, became the senior class president, and was on the honor roll all 4 years. She got accepted into all 8 colleges she applied for. She is currently on a full ride scholarship at Stanford University and plans to continue with graduate school. She is very involved with the community too.

She is currently 20 and a waitress but is planning on doing big things, and I know she will. I’m so proud of her.”

Now we want to hear from more teachers!

In the comments, tell us about the former students that really surprised you later in life.

Thanks in advance!