First published March 27, 2014
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.
The ones who stick out in your memory, maybe you can hear their raspy voice or see her in a floral dress as she walks around the room to check on your work.
I learned to love my writing from her; to have confidence in my work; that I have important things to say.
Up until this particular year, I had been an average student, a “good girl”. Most of my friends were all honor students, straight As, groomed for greatness with their early scholarship offers and college visits. Meanwhile, I was just barely making the cut and I definitely hadn’t visited any colleges. I knew that I would most definitely not be a part of that whole “scene”.
Skipping classes, smoking in the parking lot, drinking every weekend at the ski resort that we all hung out.
We became close friends over a several month period and during that time, I was around her friends, who were smoking weed, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes.
I watched as my new “friends” would go into drug dealers’ homes while I would wait in the car alone in the dark.
I was next to my friend while she stole a bottle of wine from a local grocery store and I said nothing.
I would ride in cars whose drivers were high and/or completely buzzed.
I got drunk for the very first time on four orange wine coolers in the back of a Cutlass Supreme driving down rural Ohio roads, then throwing it all up over the picnic tables at the local McDonald’s where I ended up working at months later.
I was a completely different person than I was just a mere weeks before. Previously, I was dressing the part of a play in which I struggled to fit in for many years of my life and here I was finally feeling like I could fit in with this crowd, who didn’t judge me for anything other than how hard I could “party”.
This rebel streak lasted only six 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.
Mrs. Pierce also had a front-row seat to the madness that was my junior year. From the “good” girl with stirrup pants, long sweaters and spiral permed hair to the “bad” girl with black jeans, concert tee shirts, chopped off hair, and knee-high moccasins.
Though she most definitely saw the metamorphosis, she never said anything other than to encourage my words. My writing could be an escape. An escape without having to drink a case of wine coolers or smoke a joint or dress in all black to prove how edgy I was. Writing could be a way for me not to dress the part anymore. In Mrs. Pierce’s class, I was so much more than the girl who couldn’t understand elementary algebra or who couldn’t read a chapter without getting distracted and not remember what I had just read.
In Mrs. Pierce’s class, I was finally the student I wanted to be.
It was late spring 1987, near the end of my rebellious streak when Mrs. Pierce came to me with one of my papers in her hand.
She said to me ” Kari, I can’t wait to read the book you someday write“, as she smiled at me, flowery dress flowing as she looked back at me, heading to her desk at the front of the room.
It stopped me in my tracks. Did my English teacher just tell me that I could be a writer? That I could write a book? Don’t writers have to be good at algebra? Don’t writers have to love to read?
Turns out, writers just need to be good at telling their stories.
Mrs. Pierce is the only thing I remember about the school portion of my junior year in high school. To be honest, she is really the only teacher I can remember distinctly from my entire high school career.
My 11th-grade teacher who believed in me in spite of all of the superficial changes she saw within me that year.
The teacher who saw beyond my dark clothing, my scared face, my grades and looked into my ability.
She is the teacher whom I talk about in my About Me page at the top of my blog who is “rolling her eyes”.
She is also the only teacher I will dedicate my first someday book to.
Thank you, Mrs. Pierce, for so much more than you probably ever knew that you gave me.
I wish for everyone to have a Mrs. Pierce.
Here is a journal entry I saved from her class in 11th grade.
It is the only paper I saved from high school but it isn’t the piece she was referring to about “reading the book I would someday write”. I say this because this entry isn’t that great but I got an A on it, which is most likely the reason I saved it. Because I rarely got an A.
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.