Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why A Few Teachers Kept Me From Becoming A Lawyer

That's right. I was meant to be a lawyer.

I went to college thinking that's what I'd do and picked pre-law as my major. Luckily, choosing pre-law meant lots of English classes and a scattering of other Liberal Arts courses — all of which enriched my love of language, art, and history.

I might have loved learning, but that didn't mean I was great at any of it.

That is,
until I entered the 6th grade and was lucky enough to end up in Mr. Bowden's class. One day he said, "You really get a twinkle in your eye when you work on creative writing projects. I think you have a gift for writing. Would you like to do some more for extra credit?"

That was it. The invitation to take the road less traveled. I didn't realize it then, but Mr. Bowden gave me the courage to tell my parents many years later I didn't want to go to law school and he, along with several other amazing teachers, gave me the courage to do what I love.

My new book, The Last Word, is dedicated to the teachers who nurtured my spirit, who saw a young girl that
wasn't great at sports, math, foreign language, drama, or singing, but had a certain sparkle when it came to dreaming up stories.

Was there a teacher who nurtured your spirit? Name them and thank them here and I will send one lucky guest a signed copy of The Last Word. And if you'd like to send one to that special teacher, I'll send you two copies!


Heather said...

Oh, gosh...I had so many great teachers where do I even begin?

Mrs. Von Felt - grade school
Mrs. Parfrey - grade school librarian, who always new what kind of book I'd like
Mr. Tracy - 8th grade Eng/Hist. Four years later, when told I was majoring in French and English, he simply nodded and said, "I'm not at all surprised."
Mrs. Bayer - HS English (sadly, deceased)
Mr. Chellevold - HS English - I blame him for writing down every unfamiliar word I encounter to this day
Mr. Piddington - HS English, the reason I still keep a journal (it started as a class assignment)
Mme Vaillancourt - HS French
Senora Calderon - HS Spanish (who thought I should go into linguistics; sometimes I wonder if I should have followed her advice)
Mr. Buehl - HS forensics coach
Mme Krause - College French (Also deceased, one of my favorite and more eccentric profs)
Dr. Tarro - College French prof and advisor; he gave me a collection of Jane Austen at graduation, "because it's what I imagine you writing."
Dr. Stevens - college English, some of my favorite classes
Dr. Vopat - who had the most fun college writing courses

Shel said...

I had a couple of real stars for teachers, and I could never thank them enough.

Mrs. Norma Harris: My freshman and sophomore English teacher. She gave me confidence, told me I was good at the subject, sent people who were struggling to me for help.

Mr. Larry Bussell: My sixth grade teacher. Our class was his first at our school, and we broke him in well! But through it all he kept his smile, and he has always been one of my favorite teachers.

Mrs. Mary Dalton: High school business teacher. She "officially" taught me typing and shorthand, but she unofficially taught me grace and class.

If I was going to send a book to one of these teachers, it would be Mrs. Harris. She's on my Facebook and I can get contact information for her.

Harvee said...

The one I remember most, from early high school, was Sr. Xavier Mary OSF, who introducted me to the classics in such a way that I really enjoyed them.

harvee44 at

kissablysweet1 said...

The teacher that changed my life the most was Mr. Jeffery Wolfe. He was a student teacher my freshman year in H.S. but stayed on as a full time teacher after that. Taught English, Geography, Classical books and plays and History. He was my rock and my "writing coach". I was so sad to learn he'd died very young (early 40's) from spinal cancer. I miss him!

Unknown said...

I loved your post today. It brought so many wonderful memories to my mind. One teacher, Mr. Hurd, stands out in particular. He was the meanest, grumpiest old teacher. I swear he would grumble and growl as he walked through the school. It makes me laugh to think how much he frightened all of us at first.

But, he really took the time to make sure I was challenged and taught the love of learning. I might not remember much algebra almost 25 years later, but I remember the way he made me feel important by taking the time to teach me again and again until he was sure I understood. Thanks Mr. Hurd!

Mary G Shipman said...

BIll Dunn, teacher of "the big room", grades 5-8 at our little two room school. Although he taught 4 grades, he had time for each student, never put anyone down, was always ready to listen and assist. If you needed help, you got it, if you needed to be challenged, he found a way.
No notes ever went home, he would go talk to the parents instead.There was rarely any trouble in his class room.
His example prompted many of those in our school to go on to high school, college and a fair number became teachers as well.
When he passed away some years ago, former students from many far away places came back to honor his memory.
Even after nearly 50 years, when some of us get together, we usually spend a few minutes sharing memories of Mr. Dunn.

Anonymous said...

I don't really remember a teacher standing out until I have gone back to college in my 40s to complete my bachelor's degree. I've had two teachers at my college that have made a huge difference. Susan Hertzler is a math teacher that helped me finally conquer my fear of algebra, etc. She knew that I had a math phobia and she presented it in a way that helped me finally grasp the concepts after all of these years and be successful in completing my math requirements. Up until the time I took her classes, I was pretty nervous that the math requirements would keep me from getting my bachelor's. Thanks to her, I got through all of my math classes with an "A".


Unknown said...

About a year ago I ran into my high school English teacher. It was so nice to see him! When I was in his class I wrote a term paper on stock car racing. I was obsessed with NASCAR long before it was cool. :)

After he read my paper he asked if I would be interested in a job at a race track. His brother-in-law was opening up a track! I ended up writing press releases for that track for four years. It was my first experience in publishing and I will never forget him for giving me that chance.

Sheryl said...

I'd have to say Mr. Stewart. My senior high social studies teacher. He was tough! But he made me think and reach. On my first test of sophomore year ( I have to note here that he was married to my 9th grade social studies teacher) he put a note, "Ne'er look for birds of this year in last year's nest..Don Quixote". I took that to mean that he expected more than he had gotten from my work...and oh, yeh, it peaked my curiousity to read the whole book.

Tonja Mast said...

My next door neighbor Miss Anna Smucker. She was a teacher when my mom was in school but was retired by the time I went. I used to go over and visit her and we would sit for hours and talk and she would show me all the things she had gotten from her travels around the world and from her Pen Pals and old students. I loved going to visit her. She passed away about 10 years ago and I still miss her.

Kate Maxwell said...

Mr. Wetherell, Sophomore HS English. He was a phenomenal teacher! He had his students write in Anything books each semester, and that was a very cool experience - as we could write ANYTHING! He also told us that life wasn't fair - "If Life were fair, Mr. Wetherell would have hair." I had also interviewed him as part of a school-wide competition, and won. I have heard that he became Mayor of my hometown. He was a funny and inspirational man who could teach with passion!

Abigail-Madison Chase said...

The greatest teacher I ever had was Mrs. Maziki my 11th grade Science teacher. She promoted girl power long before it became popular. She love science and pass that along to all her students especially her female students..

Bev said...

I had several good teachers, but I think my History and Science teachers from Junior High influenced me the most. Mr. Hudson and Mr. Etsy believed in doing your absolute best and had a way of helping each student do just that. To them it wasn't just getting students to repeat what they read in books, they wanted us to take that beginning and expand. Our school was only about 25 kids for each grade and only 3 teachers. This gave them the time to really get to know each of us each of us and they worked together to help us. They were amazing and to this day I'm grateful I had those two amazing teachers.

Liz V. said...

One of the physical education teachers at my school, Miss Simmons, managed to get all of the book lovers enthused about sports as well--no mean feat with incipient couch potatoes. The last I heard, she was living in Maine, but must be close to 100 if still with us.

So, I shall mention as well my neighbor, Mrs. Street, who I wish had been one of my teachers, as she and her husband devote hours to planning interesting science projects.

Lynda said...

Ms. Henley (HS Creative Writing) who helped me embrace the written word. I still keep a journal - a habit she fostered as a way for us to keep our creativity active and also as a place to get ideas for stories. I write whatever I'm feeling or thinking each day. I actually go back and read through the entries from time to time and it gives me a better prospective on who I am and what's been going on in my wierd little mind. I've also taken some of the "thoughts" and created stories, poems, etc. from them. It's a lot of fun. (Note: I also took a journalism class but found that, while I did well, my passion is not for "Just the facts, Ma'am")

Cathy said...

Alice Priestley Roth - first grade
Ruth Anderson - second grade
Theodora Petersan - fifth grade
Marles Robins - high school math and science
Walter Mientka - college number theory, and my academic advisor

Karen B said...

Mr Shulsted - 12th grade advanced math back in the 50s!

Mom2TeenTwins said...

Mrs. Bird, 9th grade Math. She was awesome!

Ellery Adams said...

Maybe you'll reconnect with one of these teachers. I did with 3 of mine after I wrote the dedication and it was so amazing to get emails from them. They are as passionate and energetic as ever!

Kuzlin said...

My seventh grade teacher was the first to really inspire me. But like others, I was lucky to have had a lot of great teachers.

Nanc said...

Mrs. O'Connor, my kindergarten teacher who inspired me to become a kindergarten teacher...Mrs. Fellows, English/creative writing teacher 10th, 11th and 12th grade who made me believe that I could...whatever "could" ending up being. Mrs. Dayton , 3rd grade who let me be a left hander and taught me how to write legibly and beautifully.

Mrs. Harriet Prior, my mom who taught me to have a voice, to have dreams, to keep a journal, to read at 3, to love learning and to create something everyday...


Aryn said...

Well, I did become a lawyer. Where was that fabulous teacher to stop me?

Sara said...

Posted this on FB, but want to do so here as well to give the man his due :-)

My HS band director, Dennis Lavy. I didn't join band until I was a freshman in HS...I helped out with the music libarary and for some reason first grading term he asked to see my grade cards. I had mostly A's, but he expressed disappointm...ent in my grades, telling me I could do better. From then on, I showed him my grades each time, and having him express pride in my work meant more than from my parents :-) I was very shy and being in band helped bring me out of that a good bit. He opened doors to me like playing in a college commmunity orchestra, attending orchestra concerts and dress rehearsals (I'll never forget sitting in Dayton Memorial Hall in the FRONT row as Richard Tucker sang "Vesti la Giubba"!), and more. I ended up attending the same college he did, and retired in 2008 after teaching band for 30 years. He changed my life....

Harbinger said...

Mrs. Laurie in 2nd grade, who helped me learn to read before anyone knew what dyslexia was.

Miss MacDonald, elementary school vocal music teacher (yes we had teachers for vocal music, instrumental music, and art back in the olden days. She was also a member of the chorus of the Baltimore Opera Company and she would present an opera, teach us the story and the arias, and then take us to a performance. My first opera was Aida and I'll never forget seeing it at Age 10.

Mrs. Foos in junior high school, who taught ancient world history and opened the big wide ancient world, along with all its myths and legends to me.

Mrs. Waters in high school, who taught me geometry and that fields were opening up for her girls who loved math and science so we could aspire to anything in the scientific field.

Miss Patterson, the high school librarian. I loved talking about books with her.

Norma Huss said...

I had an encouraging teacher in fourth grade, but after that it was all downhill. Maybe that's why it took me so long to get published in book form (age 79). I had a very encouraging art teacher in high school, so I thought that was my field. But I VERY quickly discovered I was wrong.

Vicki said...

So many,
Mr. Handley, my junior high band director who despite the fact I had little musical talent and was awful in marching band due to a disability, refusing to let me quit every time my frustration got the better of me for my three years with him.

Mr. Irvin, my teacher and principal in private school for sophmore and senior year (no junior year) with the help of BC and a lot of prayer he got me through Algebra, geometry and numerous teenage struggles and got me really excited about college. I always knew I was going but he built the fire of excitement, of making my own choices and the world of education that was opening in front of me.

Dr. Duncan who came to class in costume and took my love of Shakespeare and made him easy to understand!

Dr. Bible, I still don't get philosophy but you where there during the darkest time in my life with a laugh when I needed it and quiet understanding that meant more than anything in the books!

Dr. Newman, I'm one of the few who didn't drop your class when I could have! You were tough but I learned the testaments, an appreciation for cheesecake and gained a friend for life.

Dr. Hembree, a walking history book with a wicked sense of humor. Alex Trebek would be proud. The world was better with you here, we will miss you every day!

I'm thankful for these and so many more. Teachers can be such a wonderful influence, I was very introverted and these few and many others were able to draw me out and open doors to me that I never considered possible.

Doreen Fraser said...

The teacher I remember the most was my third grade teacher Mrs. Allen. She was way ahead of the times (1966). She didn't like any of the text books so we never used them. She had all of her own teaching material. She also separated the class into two groups so that the kids that caught on faster were given more challenging work and not bored. We even made ice cream as one of our science projects. She eventually became the principle. I wish she was still with us. I would have loved to give her a book if I won.

Aurian said...

I had a great teacher in third grade, who had such beautiful handwriting, I wanted to write like that! And I had a history teacher who really could teach. He loved his subject, and used lots of humor to makes us children love it as well. He made it interesting and alive.

auriansbooks at gmail dot com

Annette said...

My 8th grade English, Louisiana History and Religion teacher Sister Martha was a tiny little nun who carried more wisdom than weight. She taught me the most important thing I ever learned throughout my life. Every encounter in life is important. Every time you meet soeone it is an important encounter. I have thought of Sister Martha hundreds of times as I met people throughout my life.

Vicki said...

My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Moore, was an amazing teacher! He never made any of us feel anything less than special, smart, and like we could do anything we wanted. He was very respectful of us, and so we were of him. The day that stands out the most in my mind was when we watched a movie in class. After it was over Mr. Moore turned on the lights and I started moving my chair back to my desk. He came over and whispered, "Vicki, everything is ok, but you need to go see the nurse." He then wrapped his jacket around me. When I got to the nurse's office she looked me over and noticed I'd had my "monthly visit". Mr. Moore could have embarrassed me, but he didn't, and the calmness of his voice kept me calm. I know plenty of other teachers that would have had the whole class laughing at me.

This was my very first visit and it could have been traumatic, but Mr. Moore made it ok.

♥ U Mr. Moore!

Dru said...

Mr Iofida and Mr Permutter...when I was being challenge by others, they both told me that I can do whatever I want to do and be whoever I want to be and no one can take that away from me.

I think of them often even though they both have passed on.

Thanks Mr. I and Mr. P. Only a select few were allowed to call them that.

ev said...

Mrs. Boyle, my grade school librarian. Because she not only encouraged me to read, but to read beyond what was in our school library, which I went through fairly quickly. And she was always will to take the time to talk to me about what I was reading.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Evans - twelfth grade English!
She made sure we were ready for college.


Chaplain Jan said...

Annie Glenn Wood, my high school librarian, was one of the few encouraging voices during my growing-up years. Her encouragement saved my life. After I lost everything in Hurricane Camille (1969) she gave me her copies of my junior & senior yearbooks. She died many years ago, but I will always have a special place in my heart for her.

Barbara said...

I was fortunate enough to have many dedicated teachers throughout my education, each of whom gave me something that remains a part of me today. I learned discipline and how to research from some, how to really read from some, how to put fear behind me and do things I feared from others, and a love of learning from all of them.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher and it is nice to see all these comments about teachers. I hope that one day someone will remember me and say that I meant something in there life.