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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

The Navigation of Life: Thank a Teacher

Teachers mold the character and and lives of children of all ages. Here’s a page from my story.


Mrs. B., your influence in my life has been substantial and ongoing, although I am only now putting the thoughts to words. Why so long, why so late? I really don’t know.

Forty-seven years ago you came to teach English and literature at my small-town high school. I was drawn into the web you spun on fine literature. Although your expectations of the class were high (not always to their liking), I always felt you were pushing me a bit more than the others. At the time I didn’t know why, but I believe I responded to it.

I remember the day you brought a magazine to school. You showed us a short story in it you had submitted. I was impressed; I never knew a real, published author. You even let me take the magazine home so I could read the story for myself. Although I never told you, Mrs. B., that evening I dared to imagine that I, a tall, skinny kid out of the oil fields of south Texas, might some day make some of my living with words.

Dare I dream something like that? 

I still remember the day when you asked me to stay after class and visit with you. You told me I had an appreciation for literature and, most likely, a talent for sharing it. You suggested I consider entering inter-high school competition in poetry interpretation.

With your help, I selected two poems: William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” and Vachel Lindsay’s “Abraham Lincoln Walks At Midnight.” It was no big chore for me to memorize them, but you knew that already. You coached me after school until I could recite them to your satisfaction.

THAT was the tough part.

My first competition involved close area schools. I won easily. I also won the bigger competitions that included the “big city” schools. The hayseed kid from a town of barely three thousand blew them away, thanks to you. I never won state, but I came close.

When I tried my hand at writing, you helped me get a piece published, but you helped me handle rejection letters, too. In fact, Mrs. B., you gave much more than an appreciation for literature and a love for writing. You gave me the confidence to know when and how to speak up.

I spoke up once in a college literature class, and thoroughly surprised myself. We were studying Wallace Steven’s short poem, “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” The instructor glared at the class and challenged us to interpret the piece. I glanced around; no hands went up, so I put mine up.

“It’s probably open to a number of interpretations,” I remember saying, “but to me it’s a poem that depicts life as often being, difficult, indifferent and even fatal. The reader is urged to take shelter in the small pleasures, wherever they can be found.” 

The instructor smiled and nodded. “Excellent,” was all he said. But it was enough.   

Thank you, Mrs. B., for ALL you taught me.


James Sutton, Psychologist

April 23, 2008 - Posted by | adversity, Educators, family, Inspirational, Self-esteem | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. ‘Man’s upward climb to light has always been’ says Buckle, ‘educationally, not morally, or religiously.’ Therefore the most important person in the whole democratic institution and the civilisation of the twentieth century is the school teacher. You have been very fortunate in finding a good teacher who has been able to discover your hidden talent. Edgar Dale in one of his newsletter wrote; ‘the saddest of all obituaries may well be: his hidden talents were never discovered.’ Teachers are indeed the molders of the character of the nation and yet far less is spent on education and more on weapons of


    Comment by randall butisingh | July 13, 2008 | Reply

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