By Anne A. Wilson
I received a heartwarming surprise when my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Joan Burtnett, arrived at the launch event for my second novel this last summer. Unbeknownst to me, over the past four decades, she’d been following my progress, watching as I moved through high school, college, the military, and ultimately, into the publishing world as an author.
It brings tears to my eyes when I think how she was keeping track of her former student after so many years.
The cool thing is that she’s one of the teachers I’ve said a silent thank-you to on numerous occasions for instructing me in the basics of writing.
Same with Mrs. Kimball, my seventh grade English teacher. She taught me how to diagram sentences, and let me tell you, we got down to the nitty, nitty gritty in her class.
And just so you know, she would be appalled at what I’ve just written. That I begin sentences with conjunctions. Noooooo! That I bleed standalone dependent clauses. Double noooooo!
And I’m sure I’ve got some split infinitives in here somewhere, too.
That start with conjunctions. Gah!
Mr. Kimball , my twelfth grade English teacher (no relation to seventh-grade Mrs. Kimball), taught me how to write cohesive paragraphs (and no, I’m not demonstrating that in this article, just to be clear), tight essays, and drilled in the organizational skills necessary to write my first full-length research paper.
So yeah, my teachers mattered. No way I would be where I am today without them.
They mattered to my father, too. I recently read several letters he exchanged with his sister many years ago before she died. These two grew up poor in the 1930s, in El Paso, Texas. They spoke Greek at home and Spanish with the neighborhood kids. They enrolled in elementary school not knowing how to speak English.
You would never guess their background based on the quality of their writing. It astounded me. Classy cursive handwriting, grammatically correct sentences, and paragraph structure and organization that would make any English teacher proud.
My dad and his sister weren’t well-heeled, their futures weren’t promising, but their teachers believed in them and took the time to hammer home the basics. Actions that influenced my dad and my aunt in ways those teachers couldn’t possibly have imagined.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my dad, who against all odds, went on to become a dentist, remembers the names of many of his earliest teachers. He’s eighty-six years old, and when I called him to ask, he rattled off their names like it was nothing. Kindergarten—Mrs. Franklin, Third Grade—Mrs. Davis, Fifth Grade—Mrs. Connelly, Eighth Grade—Mrs. Thompson (she lit a fire under him with geography, he told me), High School—Mrs. Alonzo (Spanish) and Coach Brown (physical education).
I gave it a try, too, (see below), and I was shocked at the number of names I was able to recollect from my addled fifty-year-old brain. Dear teacher, even if I’ve forgotten your name, you were no less impactful. To all of you, I am deeply grateful for your teachings.
By the way, teachers, please accept my apologies for any and all grammatical errors in this article, both intentional and unintentional. I’ve been allowed to run amuck here for decades without proper instruction!
Kindergarten – Miss Morgan
1st grade – Mrs. Waite
2nd grade – Mrs. Miller
3rd grade – Mrs. Kildow
4th grade – Mrs. Acre and Mrs. Bruce
5th grade – Mrs. Burtnett and Mr. Colford
6th grade – Mr. Osborn
7th grade – Mrs. Kimball, Mr. Broderson
8th grade – Mr. Smith (Principal) – former marine!
High School—Mr. Kimball (English), Mr. Stegall (Chemistry), Mr. Curtis (Physics), Mrs. Stone (Geometry), Mr. Hallman (Algebra), Mr. Larson (Trig/Pre-Calc), Mr. Coyle (PE), Mr. Meyer (Social Studies), Mr. Cowie (English)
So what about you? Can you name your elementary school teachers from memory? Middle school? High school?
Anne A. Wilson is the author of Hover and Clear to Lift. She was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a degree in ocean engineering. She served nine years active duty as a navy helicopter pilot, including three years flying search and rescue, where she specialized in high-altitude technical mountain rescue. Following her military service, she worked for four years in the semiconductor industry. Currently, she and her husband own a triathlon coaching company, Camelback Coaching. Anne lives in Fountain Hills, AZ, with her husband and two sons. To learn more, visit www.anneawilson.com.
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