I know that it was one special teacher who lit my interest in becoming a teacher. I know many of you have spent many years in education and perhaps have not thought about who influenced you to become an educator in a while.
So, here you go...Who sparked your interest in becoming a teacher and why?
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I'll never forget my Senior English Honors teacher in high school, Mrs. Emma Jo Foster (DeLand High, Florida). She managed to transfer her own love of literature to me, and it was about this time that I decided I, too, wanted to teach English. I'll never forget her teaching Joseph Heller's Catch-22--complete with all of its "f" bombs--and getting to read passages aloud in class. She must have had to battle with the administration to allow the teaching of this X-rated anti-war satire, but it was the perfect choice at the height of the Vietnam War. I found later that few other teachers (or administrators) would have the courage to fight for the right to teach the literature they love. I was able to visit Mrs. Foster at my 25th high school reunion while she was recuperating in the hospital, and she was still her same old, cantankerous self. She died a few years later after moving to Arizona to live with her children--the greatest teacher I ever had.
My Honors high school English teacher who made us read one novel a month and then wrote one sentence on the board for the novel's essay exam was long not my favorite. But, as many of us do, I began to appreciate the tremendous exposure to various works that I was given and her direction in analytical thought.
Whenever we were assigned analytical papers--never research papers that she thought "mundane"--she gave me at least 3 more books to read than were assigned to anyone else, telling me, "You absolutely must read these. You'll understand later on in life." She was correct. At 81 she is still reading dissertations for Pepperdine.
This teacher fostered my love for literature. How could I not try to pass it on? And, probably more than anything, she never, never compared me to anyone else in my family--the first teacher ever to do this. To this day, students tell me how much they have appreciated the fact that I never mentioned their sibling or made any comparisons. Such a small thing often makes such a differenence.
Teaching is a third career for me. I started as a journalist and loved learning about different issues...and loved the fast pace and limelight of the profession...but hated the time away from my kids.
So, I stayed home to raise my kids and starting volunteering in the classroom. Heather Sperlich, a chemistry teacher in the high school where my kids went, was so excited about her topic and her students that I was intrigued and wanted to be able to touch students the way she did.
She is the one who inspired me to go back to school and get my Masters and Teaching Certification at the same time. I now teach in the same school where my role model taught. Cool, huh?
Mine was my high school Latin teacher, Svetlana Lazarova. Four years of Latin under a Bulgarian matriarch was the most amazing experience of my K-12 education. Since she wasn't schooled in America, her approaches to teaching were different than most. She was tough, and certainly didn't suffer fools. However, she had (and still has) a firm belief in educational equity, and the ability of all students to achieve. My graduating class was the first to produce a Latin scholar from our school (my best friend, currently working on her PhD in classics).
Ten years later, I can't decline my Latin nouns, nor conjugate my verbs, but I do know how to help a struggling student, and how to awaken a passion in my class. I am lucky enough to call myself Lana's colleague now, and it still amazes me to see how each class responds to her. The class of 2011 actually wrote and performed their own epic (based on the Aeneid) which traced their journey from 9th grade to graduation, solely for her. It was also incredible to see the growth, from my own AP Latin class of 3 to this year's class of 24.
Mr. Barry Grimes, an English teacher i didn't have until my senior year. Not only did he teach me how to write effectively, he is probably the best classroom teacher I have ever seen. On my best days I can come close to his style, but he was that way naturally. There are many techniques and ideas I use in my classroom even now, 25 years later.
I took every class I could from him, including poetry/short story (without which I would never have been published), Calyx, the school newspaper, (where I learned journalistic research and style) and Senior Writing (which prepared me for college).
When I started teaching, Barry gave me a poster that had hung on the wall of his classroom for 25 years, of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It has now hung on my classroom wall for 19, and I have plans to give it to a former student studying to be an English teacher.
For me it was a combination of my Greek teacher (yes, I admit to having studied Ancient Greek) and two English teachers. They were called Mr. Duggan, Dr. Wilson and Mr. Stook respectively. Mr. Duggan was amazing in the way he made us remember how to conjugate Greek verbs by playing the cello (don't ask), Dr. Wilson was unforgettable in the way that he dissected texts with his irrascible Scottish personality and taught me how to analyse, and Mr. Stook was a loveable character who was an amazing storyteller and used to stagger up and down the corridor of the English department drunk. Irreplaceable!
For me it was Mr. Al Trehearn in ninth-grade English. I truthfully cannot remember many details about the year, though I know we read The Odyssey; what I do remember is loving the atmosphere of literary discussion. I knew then that i would be an English teacher and I never wavered. Mrs. Emily Brown, in eleventh-grade American Lit, was the next one who had such enthusiasm and passion for her subject that I literally couldn't wait to have my own classroom. I appreciate them both for the gift they gave me just by doing what they so obviously loved, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to do the same for at least some of my students.
My 12th grade English teacher, Maxine McCall, was the one who moved me toward the study of literature. I had never had a teacher who was so passionate about her subject. She introduced us to such gems as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Pygmalion, among others. Wearing a necklace comprised of renditions of various fruits, Mrs. McCall commanded my complete respect and admiration. My skills as a writer developed under her as she pushed us to write about such intriguing topics as architecture--the topic, "A Civilization Values What It Builds." We kept a gigantic notebook with all the information that she gave us. I can still recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales because of her (forty years later). At the same time that she was teaching us, she was the director of a major county-wide production of Camelot. This production was my introduction to live drama, and it made a tremendous impression on me.
When I went to college, I didn't really know if I wanted to be a teacher or not, but I knew I wanted to know more about literature, so I took every English class that the college offered. After I began student teaching and eventually teaching, I have often thought how much Mrs. McCall had given me.
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