Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Question of the Day #391

Lisa D. sent me this email:

I was just asked "Who was your favorite teacher?" and I thought, "A ha! Great question!"

She is sooo right. Great question!

I have two. In high school, I had a tough English teacher, Mrs. Meys. She was serious about Beowolf and The Canterbury Tales and all sorts of stuff I had no interest in reading. At the time, I was way more curious about the latest party than the oldest literature.

But then she assigned us a poem. So for once, I actually did my homework and I wrote one. And although I'd probably be horrified if read that poem now, she gave me an "A." That got my attention. I just wasn't an "A" student. So I stopped sleeping and started listening in class. She encouraged me to write and read. And at the end of the year, she gave me an award for effort and achievement. I'd never earned a reward before.

After I published my first story in Seventeen, I went back to my high school and put a copy of the magazine in her mailbox along with a thank you note. She wrote me back, stating that she was retiring that year and the thank you was a wonderful send off and that she would follow my career.

When I got to college, I'd decided to major in writing, but I had NO idea how to write or what being a writer even meant. The first day of my first writing workshop, Andre Dubus III entered the classroom. He was passionate about the craft, excited to dig in and ridiculously attractive. He taught a small group of students about plot, introduced us to some great writers like Susan Minot, showed us how to structure a story, foreshadow, describe without being cliche and ultimately complete our very first short stories. And he made it fun and exciting.

That man made me want to be a writer.

The funny thing is, years later, during an interview, Andre talked about that first workshop and revealed that he had no idea what he was doing either. He had never taught a class before and didn't really have a plan. I think the honesty of it all inspired me.

Teachers are under paid and under appreciated. But they're the most important influences, outside of family, during our formative years. I know that if Mrs. Meys hadn't encouraged me to read and write and if Andre hadn't stirred up a writing storm in that workshop, I wouldn't be who I am today.

So let's give thanks to the most important people in our lives. Who was your favorite teacher?



  1. What a great story!! Mine was my English teacher and softball coach - Mr. Wishkowski!

  2. Mr. Nazer - High School Psych. Teacher. He taught me there's more to movies then just sitting down and watching them, that there are layers that when uncovered can make you see things in a completely different light.

  3. Mr. Guarnella - Latin teacher in high school who helped me realize my inner nerd.

  4. There were a few that I was fortunate enough to have had, however, one sticks out foremost in my mind.

    Ms. Post. She was my Canadian Literature and English teacher, as well as basketball coach. She was inspiring on so many levels: from her unique candlelight classes, to her whacky nylons, to her constant encouragement on the court.

  5. Suzi - I am right there with you on Mrs. Meyes. She changed, if not saved, my life. AP English; I'll never forget it.

    Then there was Professor Weitz who unknowingly made me choose Information Technology as my major in college.

    Can we vent about our least favorite teachers tomorrow???

  6. Mrs. Douglas, my 1st grade teacher, she was so sweet and caring. And Mr. Johnson, my high school economics teacher, although I think he'd be pretty upset with me today in my current economic state!!

  7. Mr. Hunter. A "tough as nails" type of English teacher. Kids actually cried when they found out they were placed in his class. I was horrified when I got my Junior year schedule and saw his name glaring back at me. It was a long, tough year but something about his class excited me. Now, when I got the news he was also my English teacher Senior year, I almost cried. Senior year. Party year. I was lazy and thought I had already conquered the beast that was his class. Turned out to be a great year. Many one-on-one inspirational talks. He told me he could see something special in me. During a time when I could not have felt less special (double negative, bad), those words were priceless. He taught me how to write. (Okay, mommy brain aside, I can usually put a sentence together.) He also taught me writing was the most important skill to have in any career. I believe he is right. Hats off Mr. H!

  8. I had two favorite teachers as well. The first was a strict math teacher that everyone else hated. I made straight A's in her class though because I loved math. One day she taught us about bolean algebra and I was the only one listening. She said that we would hear about it again one day and I did. I ended up teaching a computer logic class and I know all about robotics and logic computers. She changed my life.

    My other favorite was Mrs. Silver. I had the biggest crush on her. Then on a field trip we caught her coming out of the woods with one of the park rangers and she was trying to get pine needles out of her hair and off her clothes. There went my crush. She taught me that all that glitters is not gold or should I say "Silver"

  9. Great post Suzanne! My favorite was also my English teacher but it's been 50 years and I can't remember her name!

  10. I actually wrote a whole blog about this, and then sent the link to the favorite teachers I wrote about. It was really cool to hear back from them, and I was thrilled to let them know what a huge influence each of them was.


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  12. Oops! I hate typos. Okay...let's try this again.

    Lots of great teachers, but these two stand out as having the greatest impact on my life: Tanya O'Donnell and Jon Davies, both high school English teachers. Mrs. O'Donnell gave structure to my writing and Mr. Davies gave me the freedom to run wild with it.

  13. Mr. Walker -- psychology teacher

    He was one of the few teachers who truly took an interest in his students (married one, but that's another story!) and didn't talk down to them or make them feel stupid. Funny how that affects a student. I got As in pysche, but failed tennis because the teacher for that class was a major pain. She hadn't gotten along with my sister years before, so she continued that grudge with me. Mr. Walker never did that and treated everyone with respect.


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