At age five, I got my first library card. My older sister, Paula, walked with me to the local library, two blocks away. The library sat in a corner of a city park, a sentinel of education in the middle of a noisy play place. At the Smith Villa library I learned to love learning, by taking home stacks of books each trip, devouring them, and quickly returning for a new stack.
As I grew, I had many teachers who whetted my appetite for learning interesting things. Although I am grateful to many of my teachers for their influence in my life, a special few stand out.
Joanne McGill was the first teacher who made me feel loved as a student. I always assumed my teachers liked me, and I liked them, but in sixth grade Mrs. McGill and I shared a secret. One day she called me up to her desk. Because I was one of those children who feared doing anything wrong, I got nervous. When I got to her desk, she asked me when my birthday was. When I told her, she said, “You and I have the same birthday.” She seemed excited about that and when “our” birthday happened, she made sure to wish me a special day, as I did for her.
Adele Sorensen was a bubbly, humorous, seventh grade English teacher. Mrs. Sorensen treated me like an intellectual and never spoke down to me. In fact, I felt as if she took me under her wing, so to speak. When I finished all spelling lists for seventh through ninth grades in the first semester of seventh grade, she let me use that time reading. She would suggest classic books for me to read during my “free” time, and felt confident that at age thirteen I could master Silas Marner. (Now, at age 51, I am reading it for the second time and am saying to myself, “What the heck? What was she thinking?) Mrs. Sorensen was the first teacher to encourage me to become a writer.
Dr. Adam Frisch was my college language teacher. He was an energetic and animated professor who made Shakespeare come alive for me. He lavishly praised one of my creative writing efforts and later told me, “Your writing will never fail you.” With his encouragement I began putting more effort into my writing assignments. I treasured his critiques.
Today, I have students of my own. I get to experience education from the other side of the fence. I now know the joy my teachers must have felt when they saw the light on a student’s face signifying that he “got it.” It’s also gratifying as a mother knowing that my son has teachers who care about his education. When he comes home from school, excited about a volcano that appeared in a farmer’s back yard, almost overnight, or gets into the car and tells me that his teacher told him that he’s a reader, even though he hates cracking open a book, I know that he’s in good hands—the hands of educators.