Teachers who change you


I have a couple first-time teacher friends who’ll be meeting their students for the first time tomorrow (Good luck Rebecca! Good luck Bronwen!), and apart from making me feel very old, it takes me back to memories of some of my own favourite teachers.

Today I’m thinking about a grade one teacher who gave a warm, comforting feeling to every child she met, and who I always think of when I see a Ukrainian Easter egg.

A grade seven teacher who had a classroom library of her personal books that we could sign out (I remember staying up with a flashlight to finish And Then There Were None in absolute terror), who encouraged us to give book reports in character (“I am Princess Eilonwy, daughter of Angharad, daughter of Regat of the Royal House of Llyr!”), who had us write journal entries back and forth with her, who took us into the river valley for writing time, and who let us have candle-lit reading sessions.

A drama teacher who didn’t seem to look at us and see a bunch of twelve-year-olds, but trusted we could handle Shakespeare and plays about juvenile detention centres.

And a grade nine teacher whose classroom seemed to brim over with culture and art and… humanism. She lived and breathed Guy de Maupassant and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and got down on the ground and kissed the soil on the annual school trip to France. She taught us about the myth of Sisyphus, and walked across the tops of our desks to demonstrate the meaning of “the absurd.” We knew her for three years but we could tell she preferred us as older students, because we could better appreciate what she was exposing us to.

I was lucky enough to go to university and be shaped by wonderful, wonderful teachers there too, but there’s something about those early ones especially, I think, that changes the course of who you are.

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