Was Miss Sullivan a good mentor based on Helen Keller's autobiography The Story of My Life?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In her autobiography The Story of My Life, Helen Keller most definitely presents her teacher Anne Sullivan as an excellent mentor and a role model for others to follow. One way in which Sullivan served as a mentor to Keller is through using techniques that taught Keller the value of education.

In Chapter VII, Keller informs her reader that her early lessons with Sullivan were "one of [Keller's] most precious memories." She explains that her early lessons, even when she studied very hard, felt "more like play than work" due to Sullivan's teaching techniques. For example, when Keller was first learning to spell, read, and make sentences, Sullivan would allow her to place on various objects cardboard slips with raised letters forming words, such as the time when Keller pinned to her pinafore the word "girl," stood in a wardrobe, and put on the shelf the words "is, in, wardrobe" to form the sentence "The girl is in the wardrobe." In addition, Keller informs her reader that Sullivan would illustrate with either a "beautiful story or a poem" anything she was teaching Keller. Keller particularly spends a great deal of time describing how interactive her education was since she learned geography, zoology, botany, and mathematics all by interacting with her surroundings.

As a result of Sullivan's teaching style, Keller learned to see everything around her as beautiful and useful, an understanding that stayed with her for the rest of her life. As Keller phrased it, due to all of the knowledge Sullivan awakened in her, she finds it hard to separate her own understanding from that of Sullivan's:

All the best of me belongs to her--there is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch.

Since Sullivan did so much to shape Keller's life and awaken within her the joy of knowledge, we can clearly see just how much Sullivan served as a mentor in Keller's life, as well as a mentor to anyone who reads about Sullivan.

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