Dan Conover has an interesting post precipated by graduation season. In it, he talks about how narrowly he avoided a life as a knucklehead, mainly by a few teachers taking a risk on the unrealized potential of a slacker kid with a bad attitude.
When I think about my time in junior high and high school in Kansas, I had it very good. There was a lot of freeform time allowed us to pursue interests and to develop at our own pace. I did photography from the ground up on borrowed school cameras, all the way from winding the film into the canisters through developing in the darkroom and making my own prints. I did forensics which involved writing and delivering my own speeches. I worry a little about kids today being too directed and too regimented in their activities. A big chunk of the personal development involved me being left alone in the public library to browse whatever books caught my interest, or with the Apple II and TRS-80s at school and the library.