The Influence of Teachers

It’s safe to say that I would not be where I am today without the amazing teachers I have had throughout my life.

I was blessed to be able to go to The Anthony School my entire life, from pre-k through eighth grade, and then move on to Catholic High. Both institutions were essential in shaping the young man I am today. They were different, but the same.

The leadership at both schools were phenomenal. I could never say enough about Miss Kay Patton, Miss Sharon Morgan, or Mr. Steve Straessle. Each was the embodiment of their school and provided environments that encouraged well-rounded education accompanied by discipline (although, I will say Anthony wasn’t quite as strict as Catholic).

From there, the teachers at these schools were the most amazing groups of educators I have come across in my twenty-one years on this planet. Starting at an incredibly young age, I was taught in a way to exceed expectation and that always left me wanting to learn more.

Currently, I am an English major in college pursuing a career as a writer, but at one point grammar was my worst subject in school. I remember struggling through declarative and imperative sentences in particular. Mrs. Susie Glover, as intimidating as she was, always let down that guise which instilled fear in the hearts of all of her students. She could be gentle, and was an expert in working and managing a classroom. Mrs. Glover dedicated fifty years to The Anthony School, influencing thousands of lives in a capacity that far expanded the confines of a classroom. She and her husband built the stage by hand where hundreds of plays, talent shows, and spelling bees were held. And when I struggled, she never gave up on me, nor did she ever let me think my potential was reached. There was always room for improvement.

Part of what led me to become better at grammar was the suggestion by Mrs. Glover to receive tutoring, which I did. When I was in fifth grade, I approached my second grade teacher to tutor me. Mrs. Roberts was young and as kind as could be. Her first year as a teacher was my second grade year when I was in her homeroom. Garrett and I tortured her beyond belief, constantly scaring her and being active in class. She loved us, though, and continued to help me out even later.

In middle school, I was baptized by fire with so much new knowledge of the English language. I wasn’t aware that I attended a school that focused so heavily on the English language until I made it to high school, mainly because it was something I never thought about.

Ms. Devine (now Mrs. House) began teaching us literature and grammar. She taught us in separate classes though, because we had three specific periods dedicated to language. Ms. Devine taught grammar one period and literature the next to sixth graders. Mrs. Mann taught composition to the entire middle school. Mrs. Boswell taught only the seventh and eighth graders, but did both literature and grammar. That format changed through the years, but the point is these three women laid the foundation for my love of language.

I remember specifically at a parent-teacher conference talking to Ms. Devine about the way she taught her literature class and how we did the classwork for the readings.

“Ms. Devine, the way you have us analyze these works and talk about them just isn’t how I learn. I’m not good at it.”

She smiled at my dad and me both, my dad smiling back at her knowing the gist of what she was going to say before she said it. “Jackson, sometimes what you feel you can’t do is just you being uncomfortable. It’s probably just new, right?”

” Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you going to keep trying?”

“Yes ma’am.”

I finished with an “A” in the class and came away with an appreciation for a great teacher and a greater knowledge of how to examine literature. We were reading children’s novels, books I hadn’t heard of before. My love for reading wasn’t recognized then, but the seed to grow that love had been planted.

Mrs. Mann tirelessly worked with us every day seemingly on how to make outlines, do research, take notes, and write research papers. Not only that, but she was a major supporter of us young students finding our voice through a pen. She knew that in our age we were all searching for who we were as individuals, and she encouraged us and gave us an environment in which we could explore our creativity and imagination free of judgment. We had poetry slams, reflections, journals, passion projects, and research papers. Mrs. Mann showed that knowledge and writing went hand in hand and gave us all of the tools possible to properly express ourselves.

Mrs. Boswell educated us on the intricacies of the English language. We learned all the parts of speech and everything to do with grammar through diagramming sentences. We would do nothing but diagram sentences for weeks and months all class period. Learning gerands, appositives, infinitives, and all of the like not only helped me understand my own language better, but made learning other languages that much easier. She was another teacher with decades of experiences who didn’t demand respect, but automatically received it.

As someone pursuing a degree in English, I could just focus on the English teachers at Anthony, but that wouldn’t do justice to the other teachers.

Thanks to Mr. McDaniel, I was more than prepared for high school science classes. I was able to use notes from my middle school sciences for a good portion of my high school sciences. Thanks to Mr. Brady, I didn’t learn anything new in math until my junior year of high school. Thanks to Mr. Spivey, I was well-versed in a wide variety of histories and had a grasp on United States government. Eventually I had to leave these teachers to move on to high school, where I was greeted with more equally as amazing and influential educators.

Mr. Straessle was the feared principal at Catholic High, a school known for its strictness and fitting discipline. He led the school by example. Mr. Straessle knew when to yell at a boy and he knew when to encourage him and take it easy on him. All punishments fit the crime of the offender, none too excessive nor too lenient. During my senior year when I was applying for colleges and sending off my transcripts, there was a hold on my transcripts. My family was struggling for money and was doing all we could to keep me in school at Catholic. I was so distraught thinking that I wouldn’t be able to go to college, but Mr. Straessle lifted the hold and allowed my transcripts to be sent to schools even though I owed the school money. I walked up after having his U.S. Government class to thank him. In so many words he said he was investing in my future so that if I had the means to later I might remember that gesture. Ever since then I’ve known that I would be giving back to Catholic.

Coach Cochran might have been the single most influential person on the direction of my life due to the timing of having him as a teacher. He was my junior year American lit teacher and senior year English lit teacher. His classes focused heavily on Romanticism and Transcendentalism, and the way he taught the works we were reading transformed “Carpe Diem” from a cliche to something real, original, and inspiring. He encouraged me to have a thirst for life I didn’t think was possible, or never cared to try, and he taught me how to read between the lines of poetry and literature from centuries ago.

Mrs. Gowen also played a huge part in my life in language and in general. She was the first to teach me about journalism and made me fall in love with it. Her making me fall in love with journalism led to me becoming a journalism major my first year in college.

I’ve had so many teachers that I couldn’t possibly name them all. These are just a few of the most influential I’ve ever come across. This doesn’t include faculty and administration who were so essential in my educational process and growth as a person, either. So many people helped shape who I am today, and I cannot thank any of them enough for that.

Teachers really are on the frontlines of our future, educating the next generations in being quality members of society. They deserve more credit than they receive and more acknowledgment for the work they do. I was fortunate enough to go to two schools with the best teachers I could have ever had, and I can see all the difference it has made by not just looking at myself, but looking at how my classmates from each school have turned out.

I could write entire posts about each teacher individually. That is how much each of them have impacted my life. This is just an overview with a fair amount of detail, and I try to touch on everyone. This is one way I can say thank you to all of you, my teachers. Though it doesn’t match the impression and influence you had on me, I hope it means something for now.

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