I have, as of next month, been out of high school for 10 years. 10 years ago, I was lost. I hated high school so much that I certainly didn't want to go to college. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my future, and I honestly didn't really care what was to come. It was just amazing that I made it out of high school with no serious suicide attempts.
My middle school and high school experiences were some of the worst. I was a super poor kid in a really rich town. I never got to participate in any of the "popular" kid things. I didn't have a huge prom party. I wasn't ever really asked to a dance. I had two friends in 8th grade. One of whom was my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Burrett. She let me an my friend Morgan eat in her classroom every day at lunch, and we would talk about books and movies. She would always recommend new books that she thought I might enjoy. Academic reading was always really hard for me (read: I never did it), so instead of making me drudge through the classics I couldn't stand, she would give me books she know I would like. That year I read over 50 books. That easily doubled my to-date book number.
She was the first teacher I had had that showed an interest in seeing me succeed. She made sure that I felt like I wasn't alone, and she sparked my interest in the wonderful world of books. Because if I had a book with me, I always had friends.
Now on to high school. Sweet baby Jesus, I think I have, at this point in my life, drank enough to forget about most of the horrendous things that happened there. I was such an angsty little fuck. With fairly good reason. And what do angsty little goth kids do? They write. Oh man, I held the crown for teenage angst poetry. But for some reason, my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Zuzulock, told me I was a good writer. He saw the raw material in my to eventually be really good at writing poetry. He gave me extra credit for the poems I wrote, and encouraged me to write all the time. I finally felt like I was meant to do something.
So for 11th grade, I enrolled in creative writing. My teacher, Mrs. Stiff-Cox (yes, that was really her last name), saw that raw material become more refined. She helped me get into the Susquehanna young writers advanced workshop. I was one of 25 poets selected across the nation, and the only one from Montana.
By the time I hit 12th grade, I was really getting into the English thing. I enrolled in AP English, so I could take a full year of it, instead of just the required half year. I T.A.'ed for my English teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, who taught me how to read. She never made me feel dumb if I found symbols that were maybe a stretch. She was ultimately the reason why I decided to get my B.A. in English.
Two years after high school, after looking back a noticing this trend of inspiring teachers, I made the leap and went to college. Every teacher that I didn't believe, who told me college would be different, couldn't have been more right. I went from a poor outcast with barely a 2.0 GPA to someone who had more friends than she knew what to do with, and graduated with honors. This fall, because of these 4 teachers, and a brief stint at the local YMCA, I will be going back to college to get my teaching certification. I gave up teaching in Korea so I could stay here and hopefully be the difference in some kid's life that these teachers were to me. Teaching high school English is my way of paying it forward in my community.
I suspect none of the people mentioned will read this post, but if you do, know how much you changed my life for the better. There were other teachers too, but none as profoundly as my English teachers.