My high school English teacher passed away on March 19th.
This isn’t the first teacher to pass away since I have become an adult.
But it was the first one that made me cry.
Even though I haven’t seen or talked to her since 1987.Mrs. Pierce was one of those great teachers.
You know the ones.
They stick out in your memory, you can hear their raspy voice, see her in her floral dress as she walks around the room to check on your work.
I learned to love writing from her.
All my teen years up until this particular year, I had been an average student but my friends were all honor students, straight As, groomed for greatness with their early scholarship offers and college visits.
I was just barely making the cut.
Think skip class, the principal’s office was on a first name basis, smoked during lunch break right outside the teachers’ lounge rebel, badass girl.
And I was enthralled with all of it.
I was exposed to drugs.
I saw pills, I saw people tripping on acid, I saw marijuana.
I touched none of it.
I watched as my “friends” would go into drug dealers homes while I would wait in the car.
In the dark.
I would ride in cars who’s driver’s were high and completely buzzed.
I would sip Budweiser to look cool and backwash it into the can because of BEER.
I got drunk for the first time on four orange White Mountain wine coolers in the back of “Muffin Head’s” I SWEAR ON MY LIFE THAT WAS HIS NICKNAME Cutlass Supreme.
I also threw it all up over the picnic tables at the McDonald’s I ended up working at months later.
This rebel streak lasted only four months but I am sure it seemed like an eternity to my parents who fought with me, cried and prayed for me and at one point carried me back into the house over a shoulder while I was kicking and screaming.
I love you, mom and dad.
I am so sorry.
And the karma that is coming my way scares the crap out of me.
Mrs. Pierce had a front row seat to the collision of the century.
From stirrup pants and long sweaters and spiral permed hair.
To black jeans, Ozzy Osbourne tee shirts, chopped off hair and knee-high moccasins.
I love you, mom and dad.
I am so sorry.
It was late spring 1987 (near the end of my hot mess streak) when Mrs. Pierce came to me with one of my papers in her hand.
She said to me something to the effect of ” I cannot wait to read the book you someday write”.
And it stopped me in my tracks.
My English teacher just told me I could be a writer.
Don’t writers have to be good at school?
Don’t writers have to use big words?
Don’t writers have to be smart??
Mrs. Pierce was the only tangible thing I remember about my junior year in high school.
Well, except for getting stuck in the bathroom stall at prom later that month.
But it was the take away from my high school career.
My 11th-grade teacher believes in me.
Even with my Ozzy tee shirt and ripped jeans.
Even with a look of confusion on my 17-year-old face.
Even with my rebellious spirit.
She saw who I would once become through all of that.
THAT is a good teacher.
She is the teacher who I talk about in my About Me page at the top of my blog who is “rolling her eyes”.
And she is the teacher who, among others, I will dedicate my first someday book to.
Thank you, Mrs. Pierce, for believing in me and encouraging me.
Here is the piece I saved from her class in 11th grade.
It is the only paper I saved from my entire schooling.
I can vaguely remember my kindergarten to 6th-grade years at my elementary schools. But one thing I can remember is the teachers not granting freedom to us kids. We had to do exactly what was expected of us or we would get into “trouble”. Trouble usually meant not getting to have our “breaks” or having to stay in during recess. Now, if we get into trouble, it either means detention or suspension from school.
The teaching methods are a lot different also. We do harder subjects and we learn how to apply them to our society. Teachers now help us to understand why reading, writing, speech, mathematics, and science are important for us in the future. All that was important in our younger years was that we could learn how to do all of those subjects. We didn’t or rarely had to worry about homework. We’d go out and play with our friends and not have to worry about things like tests, finals, bad grade cards, detentions, notes from the main office and the guidance office.
When we were younger, we didn’t have “cliques”, such as the “popular” group or the “hoods” or the “nerds”. We didn’t cut down on people because they couldn’t dress nicely or weren’t as rich. We all played together and it didn’t matter. We were good friends and that’s all that mattered. Sometimes I wish I were a kid again.
I didn’t have as many problems and I know we all had more friends.