I had a book signing at a restaurant in the Alle-Kiski Valley this week, near the little town where I grew up. I met a very nice man who is the nephew of my former grade 12 Honors English teacher, Mrs. Margaret Walters, who passed away some time ago. We spoke about her fondly, exchanging stories and remembering the terrific woman she was. My chance encounter with him took me back to the 1969-70 school year, my senior year.
Honors English was a brand new course, in a school district that was only in its second year of existence, as a result of a merger of two districts. My class was the first to attend high school in the the brand new building known as Highlands High School. As if Senior Year were not already so exciting, so many extraneous extras were added to make it even more exciting.
Students are greatly influenced by all teachers, whether the teacher is a good role model or a poor role model. I was influenced by Margaret Walters, who was like a whirling dervish with her brilliant orange-red hair, her quick wit, her wealth of knowledge, her desire to share said knowledge, and her ability to do so many things and serve so many people - at the same time. The very first day of school, she handed out 17 books we would be studying first semester. (They took up most of my locker.) Our Senior Year was not just big for us, it was also an important year for Mrs. Walters, who was working toward her doctorate that year, and completing her doctoral thesis, taking evening classes, and teaching full time. Somehow, she found a way to type the entire Canterbury Tales (on dittos!) for our class, because the district did not buy the books! Who types the Canterbury Tales? She also typed A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift, and other full texts that she said we needed to read and understand. Additionally, Mrs. Walters was an excellent writing teacher, with clear and concise handouts, and she made everything she taught seem almost like she was sharing secret knowledge with our class. Margaret Walters' sheer number of handouts was legendary - and I should know, because I kept them all. When I was a new teacher, looking for a better approach to teaching, I would revisit the handouts from honors English class, in those two big boxes, the kind of box that holds ten reams of paper. I would look at my notes, and I could actually still hear and remember the words she was speaking. Mrs. Walters was a teacher who was passionate about her subject, and she could hold our class spellbound in the quest for knowledge. Mrs. Walters never missed a day of school for illness that year, but she did miss for a few meetings. In her absence, she left voluminous notes on the board with instructions to our class, and even with no substitute teacher, we continued our work as it she were there. Her clear cut and insanely high expectations encouraged all to do their best. She became Dr. Walters that school year, and we had a class picnic and party to celebrate her achievements, and ours, too. As a group and as individuals, we were so successful, because our red-haired teacher believed in us, and brought out the best in each one of us.
I was a teacher for 37 years, and each day, I would try to remember how I felt as a student. I think teachers need to remember what it felt like on the other side of the desk. I also worked to emulate the best teachers of my school experience, while avoiding the practices of my worst teachers. Margaret Walters was one of my very best teachers, and she not only shaped me as a student, she continued to influence me in my professional life.
I saw Mrs. Walters about 20 years ago, and she was so proud of both my accomplishments as a teacher, that I had followed her path and became an English teacher. I told her that she was one of the people who had influenced my life, and she was pleased.
Teachers are so underrated in society, yet they do so much to shape young people. I am grateful that Dr. Margaret Walters was my teacher. I am grateful that I had the chance to tell her how much I valued her. I am grateful that she made me become a better teacher. "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Adams
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
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Please invite Grady Gets Glasses (and me) into your school. if you are not in the Pittsburgh area, we do virtual field trips with a group called Field Trip Zoom. www.Fieldtripzoom.com GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/
Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required reading. Signed copies are available www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics.
I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books. Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self. However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired!
Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom. Check them out! http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/
Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book. I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading. Please email me at email@example.com The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
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