Friday, April 03, 2015
If you ask me what I do for a living, I would say, in the simplest sense, I write. I am not a best-selling author or the typical Garrison Keillor “English major.” For more than two decades, I have been fortunate enough to sustain a decent lifestyle and support my family because of the English language. The impact of words can be far-reaching. A few of my stories have gone viral, having been translated into Korean, Dutch and a few other languages that I would not recognize without the help of the Internet. I even once wrote and presented testimony and a series of speeches for a movement that resulted in new, cost-saving legislation that passed in New York State. I also have an Associate’s degree in journalism and a Bachelor’s degree in communications, not a bad resume for an ordinary student, whose guidance counselor bluntly suggested that she lower her expectations and “forget going to college.” I cannot take credit for this success. I would have accomplished none of this, without the inspiration of my 10th grade English teacher. In high school I was (and still am) ordinary – with no outstanding talents to set me apart from the crowd. I could not draw and was terrible at basketball. My only redeeming quality was being exceptionally nice. High school in the '80s was not much different from schools today so being "nice" usually resulted in teasing, not praise. One English class influenced the person that I have today. Mrs. Stanley's excitement over grammar and literature was contagious. I learned, and realized that I could do well. In her classroom, English was not a required course, but a foundation for possibilities. She was passionate, and her excitement inspired creativity and learning. She challenged all of her students to find relevance in Shakespeare; I accepted the task. What I wouldn't realize until years later was that the creative license she allowed her students taught more than English, but also established a foundation for public speaking and critical thinking. Not only did I find joy in learning, I found confidence, believing that English was something I could do well. In my junior year, I entered a writer’s contest and won first place in the regional competition. As a senior, I signed up for an internship program at the local newspaper. After graduation, I ignored the guidance counselor’s advice and obtained a degree in journalism, become a newspaper reporter and eventually switched over to public relations. And I never stopped learning, earning that Bachelor’s degree just shy of my 45th birthday. I share this story not only to give Mrs. Stanley the recognition that she deserves, but also to pose a question: Does Common Core leave room for teachers like Mrs. Stanley? I hope so because I know that today, there are still many more average students like myself. If they have the right teacher, they will success. Student performance is not always measured by a number. Generally, the result of their work is not immediately known. The world needs people like Mrs. Stanley. Good teachers are not created through evaluations and test scores. Good teachers are the ones who make substantial differences in their student’s lives, oftentimes not realizing that they have made a difference.