Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Looking Back

This weekend is my 10 year high school reunion. I'm going back to campus, particularly to say goodbye to an important part of my education.

One of my greatest teachers, my favorite teacher, the teacher who made the greatest impact on my life, is retiring. Granted, he's earned it--he's been teaching for almost 50 years. He's been a lot of people's favorite teacher, I can just imagine the next year's sophomores missing out on the Steven White Experience and lamenting that they will never read Moby Dick with him, or Lord of the Flies, or take his Religion and Philosophy course.

Mr. White taught me a lot about writing. He pushed me to read my work aloud in class, even when I was terrified, and showed me that my writing was appreciated by my peers. He nominated me for a Citation for Excellence in English. And he (quite rightly) called me a hopeless Romantic--Romantic with a capital "R" because it was in reference to my undimmed devotion to the movement. I delighted in his amusing nicknames, such as, "A Most Unusual Mummy," referring to my love of Egyptology.

He taught me to appreciate Emily Dickinson, and printed my work in the school literary magazine. His quirky sense of humor and dry wit are legendary--no one is really certain if he has a tattoo or really is the reincarnation of Emily Dickinson, or if he's just been putting us on for decades. The hieratic handwriting on my papers meant more to me than any other comments. I still have all my work from his classes in a file.

When I wrote my first college paper reporting, I sent him copies of the articles. More than anyone else, he fostered my love of writing, even in its Gothic Romantic forms. I suppose there's a certain level of hero-worship in my memories of him. I can't imagine going back in another ten years and knowing that he won't be there.

2 responses:

keppie said...

Kate - I have similar feelings about my high school English teacher, Mr. Raftery. His high standards and encouragement were invaluable to me in school. He even suggested I apply for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to do some research and writing over the summer before my senior year in high school. With the money I earned from that grant, I was able to buy a computer!

It's great that you have a chance to honor your teacher as he retires. Enjoy your reunion!

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Kate Hutchinson said...

Miriam - the best teachers always leave an indelible mark on their students.


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