It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.Albert Einstein
I have been blessed with a number of amazing teachers throughout my life, from elementary through grad school. These teachers invested in me early on, stuck with me during difficult periods, and saw potential in me before I did.
Now that I’ve transitioned to a professional writing career, I see just how valuable having teachers and mentors really is. In the busy-ness of school, it is all too easy to take our teachers for granted. So I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to some of the teachers who have taken such an active role in shaping and inspiring my life.
- Kathy Smith. My high school English and Latin teacher, Mrs. Smith encouraged me early on. Her insistence for my class to learn the rules before we broke them (and then showing us how to do so effectively) helped prove to me that discipline will always have a place in the writer’s life. And I will never forget the look of pride on her face when one of my personal essays won a state contest. It was the first time I understood that my words could touch other people.
- Dr. David Miller. Beyond being struck with his infectious love for language and his striking lessons on rhetoric, Dr. Miller pushed me harder than any other professor in undergrad. When I enrolled in one of his classes that was above my ability and maturity because I was enamoured with the material, he didn’t make fun of or discourage me while laying out the challenges ahead. And when I proudly earned my first “C” at the end of that class? He congratulated me on making it through. I also remember his long-suffering patience in supervising my first attempt at a self-guided fiction course during which I tried to write a high-fantasy novel. I found that manuscript the other day. And I quietly hid it away again. I am eternally grateful that he nurtured my writing instincts instead of squashing them.
- Dr. Jonathan Randle. With his booming voice and penchant for playing with Legos, Dr. Randle has a sense of humor and a presence that can’t be missed. From him I learned that academics don’t have to be stodgy, stuffy people but can be creative, vibrant, quirky, and unique. I spent several afternoons in the MC English office filing papers and debating various topics with him. Even when I had no good answers (or even thoughts on the matter) I came away feeling enriched- the sign of the very best sort of teacher. His esteem for the adaptability and breadth of language sparked in me an ongoing interest in the living nature of language.
- Prof. Susan Lassiter. Some of my favorite classes were the ones I crammed in late at night in Prof. Lassiter’s classroom as “bonuses.” But it was in those classes that I saw her unabashed enthusiasm for pulp fiction. In those lessons, I saw that it was ok for me to love genre fiction (and not just the literary canon.) And THEN she dug into those pulp novels critically and showed how genre writing can be smart writing and I loved it even more.
- Prof. Eve Jones. I really got my creative feet under me with Prof. Jones, who taught me that poetry is more than rhyming couplets. I had been writing poetry since I was a teenager, but this was the first time I’d had a professor peel open a poem and show me its emotion and substance and movement. Not just label its dry dock techniques.
- My Mom. The first and definitely most important teacher in this narrative. My mom sacrificed so much to make sure my brother and I had a good education that went beyond readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic. She gave up a career she loved to homeschool us through most of elementary then became a teacher at our prep school to pay our tuition. She only fainted a little bit when I told her that I’d changed my college major from kinesiology to English. Today, she loves going on research trips with me for my various book projects.
What about you? Do you have a beloved teacher or two who inspired you to pursue a particular career or hobby?