If You Can Read This, Thank Your Teacher
This fall the constant back-to-school sales hype hasn’t been as annoying as usual. Instead, it got me thinking back on my own school days. I hope and pray that all children everywhere have at least one teacher as great as my eighth grade English teacher Ruth Fite.
She was not the smiley, gooey-sweet sort that gives stickers to everyone one no matter how slipshod the work. She was tough. She didn’t allow any slacking. We WOULD learn how to diagram sentences if it killed us. And you know what they say about that which doesn’t kill us—yes, it made me a stronger writer.
But the trade-off for all that hard work came when we got to write stories. I actually wrote my magnus opus there in Mrs. Fite’s class. It was a story about a person being wrongfully incarcerated in a mental hospital. (The author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest stole my idea or I would be a rich and famous author today.) I felt pretty good about how my story turned out, and that was its own reward. But I also got a red star at the top and Mrs. Fite’s words,
“Be sure to give me a signed copy of your first book!”
She probably didn’t realize how important those words were. For all I know, she wrote them on dozens of papers. But those words changed the way I thought about myself and gave me the courage to try. They ignited a dream I never forgot. And so I dedicated my first book to her. Unfortunately, Mrs. Fite was no longer with us when Time and Again came out. But I think she knows.
If you have a great teacher like Mrs. Fite in your life, be sure to thank him or her. It means a lot. I know because I also sat on the other side of the desk as a teacher. Here are two of the nicest things my students ever told me.
On high school graduation day one of my “bad girls” handed me a note as she walked past in her cap and gown. It said something like this: “Thanks, Mrs. Heal, for for putting up with all my s**t, and not giving up on me. You gave me a chance.”
At the end of the school year a senior boy wrote in an evaluation for my creative writing class: “Thanks, Mrs. Heal, for making us revise our work. I had never done that before. Now I know my writing (in all my classes) can be so much better. I’m really proud of it now.”‘
I treasure these words. These students (and others) will probably never know how much they encouraged me to carry on.
Now, enjoy these memories from some of my friends
“I will never forget my tenth and eleventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Jackie Wood. She held an after-school creative writing club that was the highlight of my week! For various reasons all the other students dropped out of the club one by one, and I was afraid she would cancel it, but she kept on having the club even though for almost a year I was the only one in it. I would bring the stories and poems I’d written during the week, and she would critique them. I grew SO MUCH as a writer because of her.” —Annie Douglass Lima
I had a male English teacher in high school who was a coach for one of the sport’s teams. He was a man’s man and seemed very into sports. I remember one paper in particular I wrote. It was about an old lighthouse and how a developer was planning on buying the land and tearing it down. When the developer visited the site, he met the aged caretaker who invited him in for refreshments and stories on the history of the place. By the end of the story, the developer’s mind was changed about what he would do with the land and how he could preserve it as a landmark. My teacher, Mr. Evans, left an encouraging note and how the story was “beautiful”. I will never forget how much that meant to me and as I attempted to write later in life, that memory always bolstered up my confidence. —Laura J. Marshall
Please add your experiences as either a student or teacher in the comment section below.
Deborah Heal, the author of the Time and Again time-travel mystery series, was born not far from the setting of Every Hill and Mountain and grew up “just down the road” from the setting of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. Today she lives with her husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where she enjoys reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. She has three grown children, four grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout. She loves to interact with her readers, who may learn more about the history behind the books at her website www.deborahheal.com and her Facebook author page.
It would be so nice of you to share!