“We’re educators. We’re born to make a difference,” says Rita Pierson, who has spent 40 years as a dedicated educator. The difference she refers to is not only helping students learn, but being a positive force in their lives.

In her TED Talk, Pierson calls on teachers to build relationships with their students, no matter how challenging that may be. She shares examples of gestures large and small to bolster students’ self-esteem, down to how she marked a quiz that a student had failed.

Pierson shared one particular anecdote about she emboldened one of her classes. “I gave them a saying to say, ‘I am somebody. I was somebody when I came. I’ll be a better somebody when I leave. I am powerful and I am strong. I deserve the education that I get here. I have things to do, people to impress and places to go!’ And they said, ‘Yeah!’ You say it long enough and it starts to be a part of you. . .” Watch Pierson’s inspiring talk.