French philosopher and writer Albert Camus did not consider himself an existentialist (even though that's what my high school English teacher taught me he was); he was, however, a fairly relentless force for meaning, beauty and absurdity, arguing for "the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement - and a conscious dissatisfaction." Life may be hopeless, but that doesn't mean it has to suck.
Camus was rendered fatherless before he was even one year old, thanks to the Great European War, and that left him at the mercy of a mother and grandmother who were decidedly Not Awesome. But there was a teacher. As Popova puts it
In a testament to what happens when education lives up to its highest potential to ennoble the human spirit, a teacher named Louis Germaine saw in young Albert something special
In 1957, Camus became the second-youngest to receive the Nobel Prize. Within days, he sent off this letter:
19 November 1957
Dear Monsieur Germain,
I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.
Is there any teacher who wouldn't be moved by such a letter from an accomplished former student who has just received one of human-kind's highest honors? Is there any teacher who thinks that such a letter would be inspired by diligently preparing students to get a good score on a pointless standardized test?
Never doubt that teachers make a positive difference, and a difference far beyond simply preparing students to successfully complete some pointless bureaucratic tasks.