Education is a common topic in the children's/YA literature community, partly because the readers are in school, partly because literature is used for education, and partly because education just really matters. It drives our world forward. Newer generations determine the future, and what they are taught and how they learn and grow determines them..
Teachers aren't the only people important to education, but they do play a huge role. We all have teachers who have inspired us and teachers who have dragged us down. So I figured today I'd tell you about some of the teachers I've had whom I liked and disliked. The good ones will be listed by name, while the bad ones will not.
Elementary School Teachers
I started in a regular kindergarten of which I have only vague memories. After that, I transferred to a home school/regular school hybrid where we spent half the day being taught at home and the other half in a regular class with kids from first through sixth grades. It was a great setup, although my mom got tired of teaching me real fast.
My first grade teacher wasn't my favorite because she had a loud voice, and I was sensitive about that kind of thing. Nonetheless, through her and my mom's guidance, I completed a project that year that led to me wanting to be a writer.
In second grade, I had Miss Shelly, who I liked a lot. I was in her class for second and most of third grade. She was compassionate, and she gave me lots of opportunities to use my natural intelligence to help the other kids and expand my own knowledge. One of the reasons I liked her so much (and a common reason for me liking teachers) is that she trusted me to learn on my own. Some teachers always hang all over you, and they get annoyed if you get ahead of them. It's not cool. Let kids work at a pace that works for them!
Towards the end of third grade, my family moved, and I started again at a regular elementary school, which was quite a transition. Over the following summer, I was placed in the Gifted and Talented Education program, where I met two of my favorite elementary school teachers, Mrs. McLean and Mrs. Elliot, who both went to the same church as me. They were kind, intelligent, and focused teachers. I'll talk about them more later.
In fourth grade, I had Mrs. Hermes, who was hilarious and fantastic with kids. I had other teachers too; in our elementary school, there was a group of teachers who all kind of worked together with students of specific grade levels. But Mrs. Hermes was the most memorable. I liked her a lot, though I think I scared her a little. In fourth grade, my emotional health went down the toilet, and it's been unsteady ever since. She didn't really know how to deal with that.
In fifth grade, I had a set of teachers that continued with me into sixth grade. My favorites were Ms. Wiget, who also went to church with me and has kept in touch, and Mrs. Smith. Ms. Wiget is smart, flexible, and easy to get along with, and Mrs. Smith is a very professional and put-together teacher who knows how to educate.
In sixth grade GATE, we split up into groups to be mentored on our main interest. For me, of course, that was writing novels. Mrs. Elliot and Mrs. McLean put me and another girl together with a book publicist.. This project ended up being a deciding factor in my career. During that time, I finished my first two novels and gained my initial knowledge on publishing. That summer, I began sending out to literary agents and publisher. Those two teachers gave me the tools to move forward with my biggest dream, and I can't thank them enough for it.
I must also give kudos to the two orchestra teachers who had a tenure with me in elementary school. Mrs. Smith-Ecke introduced me to cello in fourth grade and then taught me again in middle school. She was always a little flustered but passionate about her work. Mr. Gyurik taught in sixth grade and then again in high school, with the orchestra I've been the most passionate about so far. Like Mrs. Smith-Ecke, he could get flustered, but he was dedicated and fairly understanding. Without them, I wouldn't have experienced the magic of cellos.
Middle School Teachers
There's this thing that happens in middle school: teachers suddenly decide that they hate you. The ones who teach middle school almost never actually want to be there. They want to be high school teachers, but they got stuck in middle school instead. So when you come across that rare teacher who actually seems to want to teach your age group, it leaves an impression.
In seventh grade, I remember two teachers as being particularly good. Mr. Terrill was our Life Science teacher, and he was both smart and the owner of a wicked sense of humor. He sparked my first real interest in biology, which is one of the science areas I find most intriguing. Mrs. Sanchez, who retired halfway through the year, was the funniest, most honest Social Studies teacher ever. She actually taught things besides Social Studies, which is a huge bonus. It's hard not to love the teachers who will answer your life questions and educate you on all sorts of things.
Her replacement was not great. She looked kind of like a shark and was a bit dull. I think that was the first time I honestly disliked a teacher. I also had a rough time with my Language Arts/Creative Writing teacher that year--she was very disorganized and missed a lot of classes, which led to her, at the end of the semester, telling half the class that they were failing. I ended up getting a C, the worst grade I've ever had in a class.
In eighth grade, I had one really good teacher and two bad ones. Mrs. Wingo, my English and Yearbook teacher, stood out to me as a favorite for years afterwards. We vibed with the subject, of course, and she chose good books to read. The main reason I liked her, though, was the same reason I liked Miss Shelly in second grade. She trusted me to go off and learn on my own. She even looked to me for answers in class when she wasn't sure, and she let me help the others too. Yes, I liked being a teacher's pet, haha.
As for the bad teachers? One was our math teacher, new that year and well-hated by every student. She could be cruel. She yelled a lot and was famous for sending kids to stand out by the lockers and listen to the lesson from there if they upset her. The main issue was that she was just terribly over her head. Middle school students can sense incompetence, and she wasn't the sharpest nail in the box. So she got fired at the end of the year. The second bad teacher, whom I genuinely hated, was part of the GATE program. To be fair, me and the others I spent time with there did cause a bit of trouble, but this teacher was honestly a bully, and not just to us. She made students cry many times. She really reminded me a lot of Harry Potter's Umbridge.
High School Teachers
In ninth grade, I started high school. My favorite teacher then was Ms. Holland, who was my English teacher for three of the four years. Her classes had an emphasis on poetry because she was a poet herself. She was unconventional, bluntly honest, not there for any nonsense, and one of the few teachers who understood me through and through. She could read me like a book, which does not happen often. Just about everyone liked her, although most people got really tired of poetry after a while. I didn't mind it so much. Mostly, I struggled with the feeling that, although she liked me and often made reference to my intelligence, she didn't think I was really "going places," That was a hard feeling to have with a teacher who knew me so well. 🤷🏻♀️
On the other extreme was our Spanish teacher. To this day, she stands as the vision of truly bad teacherhood in my mind. We students had many nicknames for her, and she always struck a little horror in my heart. She had a temper, but more than that, she was just bad at teaching. Students often struggled to keep up. With every sentence she spoke, she would pause for us to finish it. Like, how are we supposed to finish your sentences? We're not telepathic.
In tenth grade, I had NM History with Mr. Montano, and I did not like him. I don't know what it was, exactly, but the assignments there were hard for me, and I didn't connect with him very well. So imagine my surprise in eleventh grade Government when he turned out to be a brilliant teacher. Government had never been interesting to me before, and with Mr. Montano, suddenly, I got it. He had a good sense of humor, he was real, and he knew what he was talking about. Most of all, he showed me true kindness when I was struggling with my new diagnosis of fibromyalgia. His words were part of the reason I managed to pull myself up and continue with my life, and for that, I'm grateful.
Also in eleventh grader, Mrs. Batha became my English teacher for AP Lang. She was a good teacher and a good person, a little absentminded, but thorough. In twelfth grade, my one notable teacher was Ms. Puranananda, who taught AP Lit. (I did take some other English classes that year too.) I loved her class because we read tons of great books and then spent most our time sitting in a circle talking about them. It's brilliant. All English classes should be like that.
During high school, I also worked with my first private music teacher whom I really loved, Dana Winograd. She's an absolutely brilliant cellist who graduated from Julliard and is compassionate, understanding, and welcoming to all her students. She knows how to interact with others better than most people I know. I didn't really get into playing cello solo until her. I haven't gone to her in a while now, thanks to college, but I'd like to.
In college so far, my favorite professor, right up there with the best of them, has been Dr. Keitges. She was the first vocal teacher I've liked. She's quirky, vibrant, and absolutely willing to help her students in any situation. (In my case, there were lots of situations.) She helped me progress with music, too, of course
My least favorite professor so far has been my College Algebra professor, who, like that English teacher in seventh grade, told us at the end of the year that only one person had a grade higher than D. She didn't do any review at the beginning and had an accent that made it impossible to understand her lessons. I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow, I still wound up with a B.
Why I Hate James Pat...
The Lesser Evil: Femi...
PTSD and The Hunge...
Guest Post: 5 Fandom...
My Mayo Clinic Experi...