It’s teacher appreciation week, and here at the Lucky 13s, we want to make sure all you educators hear our thanks, loud and clear. We know how hard you work, and how meaningful that work is.
I was in first grade when my shy little self met Sra. Toni, a small Latina with a big heart, a big voice and an enormous smile. She was my teacher in the Spanish speaking half of my school day. And she must have known that I needed an extra dose of love. She named me Milagros. Little miracles. She may not have meant for me to take that naming to heart, or imagined that such a simple thing would still mean so much to me so many years later. But I did, and it does.
Muchisimas Gracias, maestra.
My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Watson, challenged me more than any teacher I've ever had. I knew by the way he looked at me, the way he spoke to me, and by the extra assignments he gave me, that he expected me to grow up and do great things. I have to admit that while I was going through the really hard parts leading up to getting a book deal, I thought of him, and how he knew I would do something like this. He believed in me, and if I gave up, I was somehow letting him down. I owed it to him to keep pushing forward, even when things were at their hardest. He was the toughest teacher I ever had, and the one that influenced me the most. He'll always be my favorite.
The teacher who impacted me the most was Miss Radcowski. I had her in fifth grade, and it was her first year teaching. She asked us all to bring notebooks to school and we started Language Arts each day writing in our journals about whatever we wanted to. She would collect the notebooks every two weeks, and we would get them back full of her comments. I lived for those days when I got to see what she wrote (it was always full of such encouragement). I still have my notebooks from that class and her comments.
My teachers weren't just solvers of equations, diagrammers of sentences, and translators of texts; they were role models, sideline cheerleaders, and sometimes even confidantes. I keep in touch with several of them still. A few are even coming to my book launch party, which will be icing on an already excellent cake.
My 6th grade English teacher was the first person outside my immediate family who saw my potential as a writer. I'd written this story about an aging beauty queen for a class assignment and I remember her pulling me to the side to talk about it. What sticks with me most to this day is the look of surprise on her face and her repeated encouragement to make the story longer and try to submit it somewhere. Although I wasn't ready to follow through with her advice then, I often think about it now and am thankful for it.
Amy Christine Parker
Sheila Girton was one of several amazing English teachers at my high school. Her love for the written word was palpable when one stepped into her classroom, and she was always full of enthusiastic praise when students worked to make their writing as strong as it could be. It left such an impression on me, and I try to pass along that sort of positivity in my own teaching now.
BRIANNA ON THE BRINK
My third grade teacher, Mrs. Lesh, sticks out in my mind, forever. She was so unbelievably kind but more importantly, it was in her class that I grew to love reading. After lunch she read out loud from FANTASTIC MR. FOX or Shel Silverstein poems, the highlight of my day. She had a large selection of books that you were always welcome to borrow next to a shelf full of magical objects like peacock feathers and chunks of pyrite. In fact, her entire class wrapped you in magic, it was one of the best years of my childhood.
SINCE YOU ASKED...
My fourth grade teacher Miss Pascal. I wrote my first fantasy story for her class, and I remember freaking myself out with the amazing twist ending. I thought would for sure it would blow the mind of Miss Pascal or anyone else who read it. I also remember getting the story back with some very kind but confused comment like 'not sure exactly what happened at the end.' (Thus I learned two lessons: the joy of writing that makes you a little scared, and the importance of telegraphing even surprising conclusions, at least a little.)
THE PATH OF NAMES
I was lucky to have many wonderful teachers from preschool all the way through grad school. I owe them each a huge amount of thanks, and I can't possibly pick a favorite! One of my favorite school memories, though, is of my 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Ronzio, reading Julie Andrews' novel THE LAST OF THE REALLY GREAT WHANGDOODLES aloud to our class. In the story, the characters wear "scrappy caps" that transport them into Whangdoodleland, so we all put on our own homemade scrappy caps and were completely transfixed by a great book for a few minutes each day.
THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT
I loved most of my teachers from 6th grade up. My absolute favorite, though, has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with inspiration and making learning an adventure. Hats off to my 6th grade French teacher, David Gribble, or "Grib" as we called him. He made up songs for verb conjugations and basic conversation, and to this day I make up songs for the daftest things (making a piece of toast, going shopping, etc.). Part of classwork was also reading Tintin books in French - they were (still are!) classic graphic novels, well known all over Europe, and such a great way to learn a foreign language!
THE FLAME IN THE MIST
Mr. McGregor Frank was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was young and didn’t always maintain the best classroom discipline (I remember him chucking erasers and chalk at us from time to time) but he LOVED literature and creative writing and shared his passion with us. I was in a serious dog-of-the-north Jack London phase in fifth grade and turned in a story about wolves tracking down and killing an elk. When he handed the story back to me, Mr. Frank looked me straight in the eye and said, “You can write.” That simple affirmation probably changed my life! Having one teacher believe in you can make all the difference.
THE NEPTUNE PROJECT
Mrs. Pareja, 4th grade, was the first teacher that really "got" me. Instead of telling me to slow down and stop reading ahead in English, she gave me every book on the 4th and 5th grade possible curriculum list. She let me read them all, at my own pace, and then she picked which book to teach the rest of the class next based on my book reviews. She was truly awesome and proved to me that I could love school... and that not all teachers hate voracious readers.
and finally, a haiku!
This is an ode to
my teacher, Marvelle Colby
your support changed me.
Jennifer Ann Mann
SONNY SWEET IS SO NOT SORRY
Author of PARCHED (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2013) Melanie Crowder holds an MFA from Vermont College.
visit her online at www.melaniecrowder.net