After last month’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I’ve been thinking a lot about the teachers I’ve had over the years at Mount Shasta Elementary, Sisson, Mount Shasta High School and College of the Siskiyous.
I remember Mrs. Reed’s gentle voice. I remember Mrs. Barnes playing piano and her encouragement. I remember Mrs. Nels teaching me in the second grade how to add and subtract using beans (I am terrible at math and always have been... I still picture beans while doing equations).
I remember Mrs. Ross reading “The Island of the Blue Dolphins”; Mrs. Welborn (now Wilde) always giving out hugs; Mrs. White’s fun attitude; Mrs. Hill’s enduring patience and Mr. Savarese’s excitement on dissection day.
I remember charting sentences for Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Davis threatening to duct tape us to our seats if we were too wild. I remember Mr. Allen’s Story Days (complete with song) that actually made history interesting. I remember Mr. Shelton’s lectures about things too existential for me to comfortably understand and Mr. Spengler’s way of making me understand those Briggs & Stratton engines inside and out.
They were all wonderful, but two of my teachers stand out for shaping me into who I am today.
Mrs. Judy Sartor was my senior English teacher. I took four years of German from her.
I loved Mrs. Sartor’s classes. And I still know how to say, “Ich hieße Skye. Ich bin 32 jahren alt.” She should be proud.
I loved how, if you said something very stupid (like ask where the horses are in water polo) she’d record the conversation on the blackboard, and if you were goofing off, you’d get hit in the side of the head with a chalky eraser (she has great aim).
Mrs. Sartor is the person who taught me that I’m a writer. I didn’t know this until she told me.
Each week in English IV, we had to write a short story on a quarter page of lined paper. The story had to be about one of our vocabulary words or one of the “Facts of the Day.”
When she taped the best stories on the white board at the end of each week, mine were often in the mix.
She told me I was a writer. I believed her.
My freshman year at COS, Eve Thompson was my English teacher. My very first assignment in English 1A was to write an essay about my favorite quote and why I like it.
I used Dolly Parton’s quote: “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain.” Still my favorite.
I wrote the paper about my grandma and I working in the garden, and my disappointment because a rainstorm forced us indoors.
When I turned it in, she suggested I write the essay and give the quote at the end, or perhaps in the middle.
I’m not sure why, but her simple suggestion opened a world of possibility. Words poured from my typing fingers for her. I loved every minute of that class and every other class I took from her.
Eve is the person who told me I should write for a living. She encouraged me to apply for this job before I ever had the confidence to do so.
“I have three kids,” I told her. “I have no degree. I don’t think I could do it.”
She disagreed. She said I’d be perfect; I’d grown up in Mount Shasta and would be an awesome reporter, she said.
I applied (twice) and finally got the job.
Without Eve, I don’t know where I’d be. Without Mrs. Sartor, I might not even know that I’m a writer.
For these gifts, I thank both of these wonderful women from the bottom of my heart.
What a difference a teacher makes.