Last week was “Teacher Appreciation Week” and it got me thinking about that small group of teachers that I can point to and say, “I will never forget you.”
There was Mr. Rattenni, my 8th grade Industrial Arts teacher who made sure that in his class, at least, the bullies would leave me be. (Best nine weeks of my 8th grade year!)
There were two wonderful Math teachers, Mrs. Gould (7th grade) and Mr. Ortiz (11th grade) who took the time to make sure that, even though I sucked at Math, I could still do it and it could be fun. Mr. Ortiz, especially, put up with my random, one-sentence answers on his Trigonometry tests.
Then there were the English teachers:
- Mr. Ellis (9th grade)
- Mr. Blue (10th grade)
- Dr. Lepschy (College Argument & Persuasion and Technical Writing)
These three teachers have a special place in my memory because they did their best to teach me to write well.
Mr. Ellis and Mr. Blue took my budding desire to write and fertilized it, encouraging it to grow until I had enough confidence in myself to keep putting pen to paper, even if I still didn’t have the confidence to ever show it to anyone.
Then I took two classes with Dr. Lepschy.
In those two semesters, he beat the lazy out of my writing and taught me how to actually work to make my writing, whether it was a story, essay or instruction manual, something worth my readers reading.
He pulled no punches in his class. If you weren’t giving it your all, you knew it. I believe one of his comments on an early draft of mine actually was “Your readers’ time is valuable and this is wasting it. They deserve better!”
On the flip side though, when he complimented you, you knew with 100% certainty that you’d earned it. He’s still the mental guide by which I judge my writing. “Would I dare turn this draft in to Dr. Lepschy?” If the answer is a “no” or “I’m not sure” the draft gets rewritten.
I went into those two semesters with Dr. Lepschy with training wheels on my writing bike and came out riding a Vespa at least. I also left those classes with the tools to eventually work my way up to the writing equivalent of a Harley.
While I appreciate all of my teachers, I have to especially thank Mr. Ellis, Mr. Blue and Dr. Lepschy.
I hope that wherever the three of you are teaching now, you’re inspiring a whole new generation of writers!
I know it’s a week late, but did you have any teachers in your school-days that you can point to and say “You inspired me to do –!”? Feel free to leave those memories in the comments!