By Julia W. Prentice
I’ve had many teachers in my life.
The two I remember best: my 3rd & 4th grade teacher Mrs Thompson-Allen. I loved school and writing and reading, but never felt safe in her English class. I can remember the terror I felt when her red pen crossed my page. A large woman with a large voice—a voice that sent jingling bells of fear and anxiety through me, as she ruled class with harsh guidelines.
The crowning blow: we were supposed to memorize a poem to read out to the class. I chose The Jabberwock, which I loved for its creativity with words—made up words—but that still spoke of a thrilling adventure. When I recited the poem, she was so angered and almost shouted out “that’s not a poem!”
I was crushed.
Why do I remember her? She taught me that I could survive despite negativity.
She taught me that fear of the “red pen” would not stop me from writing poetry that flowed out, as I aged, poetry that was my style, my words, my way. I became published, my poems in books others read. Maybe I even inspired them.
The other teacher, Ms. Nigrosh, was a college professor who taught French and French literature. Something sparked between us—she inspired me to be strong and brave…the contrast between the two was startling. She became a mentor, asked me to be her teaching assistant. As TA, I aided other students in her class to shine.
This was the beginning of my becoming a teacher, working in public school as a young college student gave me huge confidence.
As I left college, at graduation, we hugged and cried a bit.
I was launched into the world of teaching, tutoring and eventually becoming an American Sign Language interpreter and later a Peer Support Specialist. All the time, I mentored, following her model. Oh, I will never forget Mrs T-A, as we called her. And much more importantly, the lessons I absorbed with Ms. Nigrosh.
From the Connecticut originally, Julia now lives in North Carolina, US with her soulmate and their furry companion. Past careers include ASL interpreting, preschool teaching and tutoring. Currently she is a passionate Peer Supporter of persons with mental health challenges, a certified W.R.A.P. Facilitator and Certified Peer Specialist. In her spare time she’s a writer, knitter, crafter and singer. Her poetry is published in seven books, and several blogs.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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