Teachers Who Make a Lifelong Difference

apple - teacherThis past week I got a wonderful surprise: a message from the Honorary Awards Chairperson for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE) telling me that they’d selected me as their 2013 Illinois Author of the Year! I was thrilled, grateful and more than a little in shock :razz:. But the one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about were my former teachers and the ones who’d influenced me most during my years in school…

As a 3rd grader, I had a amazingly creative classroom teacher, Mrs. Hein. She came up with really fun writing assignments. (That was the first year I kept a journal filled with writing prompts — still have it!) She sang songs and played the guitar. (I loved that she changed the lyrics from The Sound of Music song “Edelweiss” to “Dandelion” to fit our common Wisconsin flower, LOL.) And she even made me hold a garter snake once, talking me through it and describing its “silky” skin. (Trust me, it’s a sign of my great affection for her that I didn’t run screaming from the school.) When I became an elementary teacher in my 20s, she was the one I tried to emulate, even though I most certainly did not have any reptiles in my classroom! I’m still a little in awe of her creativity, even all these decades later.

Pride, Prejudice and the Perfect Match - ARe coverWhen I was a high-school freshman, my English/French teacher, Mrs. Liefke, introduced my class not only to the joys of speaking la langue française but, also, to a “little-known British writer” named…Jane Austen ;-). I don’t think I have to explain to those of you here how that literary meeting changed my life.

And then, in my second year of college , I had (for me) the best writing professor I could imagine, Dr. Schoen. I only took one writing class as an undergrad — a required course that I’d been told I should dread — and, at first, I was pretty worried. Our professor spent the entire hour and fifteen minutes of our first session talking about the proper use of a semi colon. Seriously! The whole class period! He came across as gruff and uncompromising, and he was a difficult grader (I quickly learned he wouldn’t let us get away with ill-formed arguments in our position papers or clichés in our essays), but he had the biggest heart. He was the one whose perspective I wanted to hear about life issues, not only academic ones. When I asked him about creative writing one afternoon (our class had been non-fiction oriented), he read me a literary poem he was working on. It was so far over my head, I spiral notebooksknew I wasn’t understanding a fraction of it, but I was truly honored that he’d treated me like an equal and was willing to share his work with me, too.

What about you? Did you have a few favorite or especially memorable teachers? What subjects did they bring to life for you?

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!!

About Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant is a chocolate addict, a music junkie and the USA TODAY bestselling author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and A SUMMER IN EUROPE (2011), all from Kensington Books, as well as a number of light romantic comedies, including THE SWEET TEMPTATIONS COLLECTION (2013) and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH (2013). Her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called THE ROAD TO YOU -- was just released in October 2013!
This entry was posted in Marilyn's Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Teachers Who Make a Lifelong Difference

  1. Liz says:


  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Congratulations on being the Illinois Author of the Year!!! That is so fabulous. It’s an honor to have that title.

    I can’t remember any life-changing teachers, though I remember a lot of wonderful teachers. I also remember the funny ones (the gray-haired gym teacher that walked around in a tutu and tights – and had a great body), the awful algebra teacher, and a couple mean ones.

    I have school teacher friends, and my sister taught 2nd grade for about eight years. I admire what teachers do and the difference they make.

    • Edie,
      Thank you so much for celebrating with me this week! It definitely is an honor.
      LOL about the gym teacher in a tutu!! It’s funny sometimes when I think back on teachers who dressed “uniquely” — they formed the basis for a few of my quirky book characters, and I’ll bet that gym teacher would make a fascinating secondary character! Maybe she’ll show up in Miracle sometime…??
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Release Day for MO’S HEART by Edie Ramer

  3. Congratulations, Marilyn! How wonderful.

    I had a wonderful teacher in what we called Standard 3 (not at all sure what the equivalent is in the US, but I was 9 at the start of the year, 10 by the end of it – in Australia, it’s called Year 5). Her name was Mrs Price, and she introduced me to the most amazing books. Books I still love to this day. She encouraged my writing, and when my first book was published, a long-time school friend who was in Mrs Price’s class with me put a message on my Facebook wall: Mrs Price would be so proud!

    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …Virtual Book Tour for Daughter of the Sky

    • Oh, Michelle, I loved your story about Mrs. Price!! And I know any teacher would be very proud to have had you as a student ;). Here, when students are 9 to 10 years old, it’s 4th grade. (I had an inattentive and not very fun 4th grade teacher, so I wish I would’ve been with you in Mrs. Price’s room!)

      I loved my AFS exchange in Australia, though, and I still keep in touch with 2 of the teachers I’d had there when I was 16 — they were wonderful! And funny. And smart, kind and encouraging. The others have faded from my memory, but Mr. Roberts and Mrs. Dawson became friends, and they’ve even read several of my novels in recent years. I still feel lucky I had the chance to meet them when I was in high school.
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Release Day for MO’S HEART by Edie Ramer

  4. Joe Barone says:


    I too think back with fondness to a whole host of teachers. Some of them were ordinary in a way, but the kind of people we all should be. Sometimes during political discussions, I think back to Miss Radford, Mrs. Butner, and Mrs. Pohl. We had to memorize the preamble to the constitution and several other parts of patriotic documents. My devotion to the US’ founding documents came from those three women.

    • Thanks, Joe!
      And I truly love hearing about teachers who brought their subjects to life — especially one like U.S. History, which, I think, takes a lot of skill to teach well. I’m so glad the three ladies you mentioned sparked a passion in you that has lasted through the years! My husband loved history so much (he still talks about one of his favorite professors) that he double majored in both English and history and has taught both to high schoolers. Sometimes it only takes one really great teacher to open up a whole world… 🙂

  5. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Marilyn,

    What a wonderful honor! And such a surprise! Congratulations.

    I can’t remember any decent teachers in the later years that inspired my writing, but there were a few oddballs. I’ve enjoyed the passage of time and the teachers that have drifted in and out of my house while raising four kids. One that went beyond and came to the hospital and then my house to give my son help with calculus while he was recovering from surgery for over 3 months. Another art teacher that inspired my son to go beyond his own limitations and try new stuff. There have been many phone calls from teachers that really cared – I admire the job they do!
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …New Release! – UNBOUND

  6. Amy R says:

    Congratulations, Marilyn! How awesome for you! My favorite teacher was my 3rd grade teacher. I don’t even remember a lot about why other than she was a little grandmotherly and compassionate but also knew how to take hold of a classroom. No one tried to pull anything over on her. But, she was also there laughing with us and I remember that I loved going to her class. She got a lot of respect from us 3rd graders. Teachers are very special people. I enjoy watching how my kids interact with theirs. My son is pretty neutral with most of his but my daughter gets to attached to hers each year. I love it!
    Amy R`s last blog was …Learning how to say no to keep the balance…

    • Amy, thanks for the congrats!! I’m very excited 😛 .
      Your 3rd grade teacher sounded like a gem! I think there’s a tremendous art to a teacher being able to have both classroom control *and* the respect/afftection of her students. When kids are in a class like that they can really relax and learn — feel they’re in safe hands. I wish all kids had a chance to experience such a great learning environment!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Release Day for MO’S HEART by Edie Ramer

  7. Kristine Radgman says:

    Congratulations on being the Illinois Author of the Year. My favorite teacher was probably my math teacher in form 5 Mrs. D I am not even going to try and spell her last name I will definetely butcher it lol!!! Math was always a fave of mine.

    • Kristine,
      Thank you so much for the congrats!!
      And I love that your favorite teacher was someone who taught math ;).
      I had an excellent math teacher when I was in 8th grade, and I wasn’t the only one who liked him — he was probably the favorite teacher for most of my classmates that year. His name was Mr. Sigler, and he was really funny and even played guitar in a band on weekends — very different from the other junior high staff! So, 2 years later, when we found out that there was an opening for an Algebra teacher in the high school, a LOT of us went to the administration and requested him…and they offered him the position! So, I was lucky enough to have him for another year in high school 😛 .
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Release Day for MO’S HEART by Edie Ramer

  8. Liz Kreger says:

    Fabulous honor, Marilyn. Congratulations.

    I remember MONA Mertes. That’s how you said her name. Emphais on Mona. 😉 She was a geography teacher that I so loved. I’d always loved exploring the world, but Mrs. Mertes made it fun. In all the teachers I had, she was the one who I remebered the best.

Comments are closed.