Bill Gates is a source of inspiration for many people.
But when it comes to those who helped shape him into the billionaire businessman he is today, Gates credits an often unsung group: his teachers.
"When I was a student, I was lucky to have some inspiring teachers — including a wonderful librarian when I was in the fourth grade and a chemistry teacher in high school — who challenged me and brought out my best. They helped make me the person I am today," the Microsoft co-founder wrote in a blog post published Tuesday.
So when he met recently with the United States' 2018 "national teacher of the year," he was eager to share how her work is helping to positively influence other students — especially those from underprivileged backgrounds.
Mandy Manning was named "teacher of the year" by the Council of Chief State School Officers in April in recognition of her work teaching English to newly arrived refugee and immigrant students at the Newcomer Center at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington. She was also named Washington state's 2018 Teacher of the Year.
Manning told Gates that many of her students have fled war and extreme poverty in their home countries and arrived in the U.S. with no English, but are "innately hopeful, because they came out alive."
So she strives to show them how school is relevant and can lead to a more optimistic future. "You can become a time traveler, seeing yourself in the future going to a university," Manning is quoted as saying in Gates' post.
Manning, who has been a teacher for 19 years, said she believes demonstrating the value of education is important not just for students but for wider society.
"To be welcomed with open arms and to know that people want you there; that is going to make a tremendous difference in how they interact in their new community ... how they move forward in life," she said.
Manning added that she hopes teachers can be given more of a voice when it comes to shaping education policy going forward. She is currently taking time out from teaching to visit schools and educators across the U.S. to share her experiences of educating underprivileged students.
"It's mostly about cultural exchange," she said. "I bring back what I learn, and they hopefully have learned a little from me."
Gates, who described Manning in his blog post as a "remarkable woman," said she reminded him of the hugely important role "super-talented, hard-working" teachers like Manning have in shaping people's successes.
Gates is not the only famous business leader to attribute their success to their early teachers.
Billionaire Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma famously credits his English teacher with inspiring him to follow his first passion — teaching.
Earlier this year he called on fellow entrepreneurs to do more to invest in schools for China's underprivileged children to help ensure they can benefit from similar opportunities.
Make It, CNBC.com