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teacherA most sincere thank you to all my former students who have over the years taken the time and trouble to let me know that I made some small difference in your understanding of—well, whatever. . . .

Math teachers know when a student has learned a new formula. The shop teacher sees the results of classroom instruction. But the fact is that teachers of high school and college English classes never know for sure what they have contributed to a student’s achievement. Oh, yes, we may see improvement in students’ command of language and their understanding of nuances of literature. But how much of that came from natural talent or practice or from the work of a previous teacher?

So, like the others, we plug along, do the best we can, and try to adopt that fundamental premise of any profession dealing with people: “First, do no harm.” Inevitably, we do, though. We are human, after all. So, to all those students I may have short-changed or ignored or hurt in some way, I offer my apologies. And to ALL of you—know that teacher appreciation goes both ways. I am truly grateful for the things you taught me and the things you made me learn.


    Mandy Sparklepants Kirk said:
    May 20, 2015 at 8:26 am

    As a former student of yours, let me point out that the most lasting lessons you taught me were not language arts based. Your ferocious pursuit of excellence, your willingness to be vulnerable, your ability to make multiple perspectives accessible to students set in their world view… those are the things I remember, and cherish. Not that I didn’t improve as a reader, writer and thinker! But there is much more to you than grammar and critical analysis of texts.

    Dakarai Jelani Miller said:
    May 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I think I was one of your most problematic students. I was quite stubborn and didn’t want to do anything. I don’t know if you remember me, but I remember that you were quite the person to push a person to achieve their potential. Some may say every bad thing, but a great teacher is the one that pushes a person to be more without disparaging them. You were a great teacher, I’ve no question in that.
    You helped me, though you wouldn’t know it. You were so insistent, which taught me that I had to be a bit smarter, a bit more insistent in my life. More forceful. You were the first teacher to hug me when I graduated. I never forgot that. You and many of the Ramstein teachers…you taught me more than I ever let on. But it went to good use.
    Am I still cavalier about some things? Like Jack Sparrow. But I was taught that I could be, and when everybody spit venom, I actually did what I wanted to: I published a few books. Famous? No. Doesn’t matter. I’ve still many more to write, but it was people like you that are my reminder: I can do it. And I’m still insolent :).
    But you as a teacher: you were incredible, and I’m grateful I had teachers as dedicated as a Wilma Counts.

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