I had many wonderful teachers, but one of the best was my 7th-through-9th grade math teacher, Mr. Jome.
In seventh grade, I was still an awkward kid. I was always "the smart girl", but didn't always know how to be assertive enough to get myself in situations I could really learn.
A few tests into the 7th grade year, Mr. Jome asked me to stay after class. He had noticed that I was catching onto algebra pretty easily, and asked if I'd like to look through some extra problems. He coordinated the high school math bowl competitions, and had practice sheets from tests going back about ten years. He gave me a few to try, and told me to ask him if I had any questions.
Of course, I did - we hadn't actually covered geometry yet, and I was only a few months into algebra. The math bowl questions were more about thinking than about knowing concepts, though, so I was able to figure out a few geometry answers with his help. I came back for more. By the end of the year I was able to finish most of the problems (not always right, but usually the right idea) despite not having had the classes yet, because Mr. Jome went through them problem by problem with me. I remember learning the pythagorean theorem in one of these after school sessions, and the basics of trigonometry.
He also put me in the very last math bowl of the year, with the high school students. I did horribly, of course, but I loved feeling so grown up. By the end of my eighth-grade year, I was the captain of the math team (everyone else on the team were seniors, and I was usually the only girl in the room). By ninth grade I was winning medals in the math meets, and had started dating a junior guy who also did math meets and was *gasp* popular! (Well, among the non-athletes.) My younger sister got started on math meets the same way, and the two of us ended up organizing our own math meet for local 6th graders, writing the questions, sending high school kids out to "tutor" teams for it, and everything. We had a blast, and I learned how to hold my own among kids who were four years older.
I really think if Mr. Jome hadn't seen through my skinny, awkward, 7th-grade exterior, I wouldn't have had the courage to take a leadership role in many activities in high school. I certainly wouldn't have learned to like math. (Which lasted until freshman year calculus in college, when a teacher killed it, but that's another story.)