Today, I am filled with gratitude for my teachers, both those I've personally worked with and those I know only through their writings. I'm also grateful for everyone I meet each day because they are perhaps the greatest teachers of all--without even knowing it! Wisdom is to be found everywhere which is why cultivating gratitude for everyone and everything that softly tiptoes (or crashes) into our awareness is important--and to be cherished.
Some of my best teachers were people I didn't even like but who, I can see retrospectively, showed me where I am attached. The unpleasantness of attachment can be recognized whenever we feel defensive, irritated, fearful, self-important, triumphant, gloating, grasping....in short, any state which is not calm, joyous, luminous, content.
Galileo wrote "You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him find it within himself." Teachers, intentionally or unintentionally, help us find our own wisdom by holding up the mirror that reflects us. Once we gain even a little awareness, we can expand the list of those we label "teacher" to include the driver who cuts us off in traffic, the cheerful clerk at the store, our significant other, our children and grandchildren.... we can expand the circle to include all beings who cross our path.
When I reflect in this way, my heart is filled with gratitude and respect for everyone I meet. This is an illuminating practice: For a time, try to see every being you meet as a respected teacher and observe what happens.