This 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 . 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.
When 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 knew 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!!