“This is my baseball tie,” my high school AP English teacher said one day in class. It was black. It was the day the MLB strike landed in 1994.
Mr. Curtiss was one of those teachers who inspired me, which I’m remembering today after asking people on social media to tell us about teachers that inspired them. It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and the stories I’ve read are touching.
I wouldn’t say Mr. Curtiss was the teacher who made me a journalist or made me love something, but he’s the kind of teacher who “got” me. I’m a quirky person, and growing up where I did in Connecticut that wasn’t always a welcome thing. I was the outcast. But I always felt safe to be me in Mr. Curtiss’ class. But he also opened my eyes to a new way of studying literature.
We read all sorts of books in his class (and I actually wanted to read most of them), but we didn’t have quizzes on them or intense essays to write. Someone was picked to find a sentence from our reading assignment for us to discuss. It was fun to see what other people chose, especially the discussion they drove. They were always intense and so often someone would have an epiphany where the light bulb went off.
Strangely, Mr. Curtiss’ wife was my Shakespeare teacher, and she also is another one who inspired me. I don’t think I would love Shakespeare as much as I do today if it wasn’t for her. We watched movies. She gave us fake quizzes. And she loved “Bill.” You couldn’t not love Shakespeare hearing her talk about him. Oh and getting to go see Hamlet on a Broadway stage helped continue to stroke those flames.
Something Mrs. Curtiss said to me also stuck with me forever. She once told me that I was a good writer who needed to be tamed. I think that’s why I look such an interest in self editing and being a better writer as I grew from teenager to working adult. She saw talent in me.
There are so many teachers from growing up I could continue to list who had a dramatic influence on me and the person I have become. Some from later years in college and graduate school became mentors. But I feel like those teachers we had growing up had an even bigger influence because we spent so much time with them. I wouldn’t love literature and Shakespeare like I do if it wasn’t for the Curtisses and Mr. Lippman or the history of revolution because of Mr. Blanc. I got my first break in journalism thanks to my high school guidance counselor. I also had those teachers I wanted to prove wrong and feel like I have.
I also wonder what has happened to a lot of the teachers who guided me through my life. You’d think a Google search would help, but not always. If they are reading this, though, thank you.