Teachers Who Inspired Us
I’m very lucky to have many graduate level teachers that helped give me such a solid foundation during my first few years of teacher. Then, when I started teaching I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor who would never answer my questions, only would question me back, teaching me to reflect and learn. And now I am surrounded by so many teachers that mold and shape and inspire me. But it is my high school senior high school English teacher that means more to me than any other teacher I’ve had. I originally shared my story about her here on Unleashing Readers in June, 2016, but I cannot not share it enough.
I was a straight A student in middle school, but when I moved to Lakeland, FL a month into 9th grade, I struggled with much, including school work. I just didn’t find joy in school any more. I’m just glad that teen Kellee kept a goal in mind (I WAS going to college!), so I kept my GPA enough to still be doing okay. But I definitely wasn’t a stand out student; however, I was still a bit cocky because I knew I didn’t have to work hard to get by. But then I entered Ms. Haley’s classroom.
Let me give you a bit of a background on Ms. Haley. By the time I had her, she was 82 years old and had been teaching for over 60 years. She was teaching in a building named after herself. She was Lawton Chiles’s English teacher. She didn’t get married because she was “too smart” to be a wife. She took off two weeks in December every year to travel to an international destination. She showed the “Romeo & Juliet” movie that had a breast in it. She meant everything she said and said anything she wanted to. She was a legend.
Right away, Ms. Haley and I butt heads. She was not going to put up with what I’d been giving my other teachers. For some reason, she decided to not ignore me, to not put up with my C+ work, and to challenge me. And I took her challenge. I don’t remember exactly what happened (I was probably passing a note or talking in class), but I got in big trouble, and I remember her talking to me and telling me that I wasn’t dumb, and that I had a chance to be something. That I was an excellent reader and writer. That I had a real future. I’d always known I’d go to college, because that’s what you do…, but I’d never had a high school teacher tell me that I was exceptional at something. This easy statement from her to me changed everything. I let her TEACH me instead of just talk at me. And that woman could teach; I am forever lucky to have spent a year with her, and I chose English as a degree because of her. There is a chance that I would have continued down a very different path without her.
This woman inspires me personally and professionally. Before I entered the teaching program at the University of Connecticut, I knew about Wendy. Her positive reputation was far-reaching. My peers and I were, quite simply, enamored with her pedagogical prowess. She taught in ways that were inspirational. Wendy showed she cared deeply for us, and we cared deeply for her. Several of us joked that Wendy was “Mama Glenn.” She was fiercely protective of our needs and helped us throughout the program in anything that we needed.
When I became a high school teacher, I thought of her daily. After speaking with other graduates, I realized that I was not alone. We agreed that we were constantly “channeling Wendy” as we worked to develop responsive, engaging lessons. She welcomed us to join her during presentations at local and national conferences, and we all gathered to learn and grow through professional development. It didn’t matter which cohort we came from. We’d all had her as a professor, and we felt a sense of unity because of this. After six years of teaching, I realized that I wanted to go back to school for my doctoral degree. After asking Wendy a few hundred questions, I took a big gulp and applied.
In the four years that I worked toward my Ph.D., Wendy met with me weekly. She listened to every concern and question I had, she wrote with me, she helped me learn about the world of academia, and she taught me so much more than I could name in a blog post. I would not have gone back to earn my doctoral degree if Wendy hadn’t been so wildly inspirational to me. It was the best decision I have made, and I am so grateful for this woman’s impact on my life.
I hit the jackpot, and we both work in Colorado at different universities. This means that I am fortunate to be able to continue working with this woman by my side. I recognize that this makes me the luckiest woman alive!
Who is a teacher who inspired/inspires you?
And remember, say thank you to teachers. It means more than anything else.