George Lucas Educational Foundation
Student Engagement

Think Back on What Your Own Teachers Gave You

April 10, 2014
Photo credit: Veer

So many laws and opinions about education seem to stem from memories of teachers who have had a negative impact on our lives. Now, I'm not denying that there are those teachers out there who made us really happy we didn't wake up as them every morning. Let's face it, those folks are in every industry. But when I think back at all of my teachers (and I remember every one of them), I have so many of them to thank for their positive influences on me.

I got a chance to actually thank many of them when I wrote the acknowledgements page from my latest book. Many times, educational authors will post an excerpt from their book on their blogs, and I'm sure I will be doing the same as well, but today, I thought I'd post something every one of us can write: acknowledgements.

My latest book focuses on how to not only assess, but also actually teach writing strategies, in all content areas. This lead me to think back on all of my writing teachers and what each and every one of them gave to me both as a student and as a teacher. Writing acknowledgements actually feels almost like its own genre; it has a very specific purpose and audience.

I can't help but think that if more people making educational policy thought about what each of their teachers gave them, then they would stop catering to the lowest common denominator of experiences, and instead focus on developing and rewarding a system to highlight all of the wonderful people they encountered throughout their educational careers.

Below are my acknowledgements. I hope that they also inspire you to think back on those you would also thank. Try it. Look at a blank page and think back as far as you can. I skipped kindergarten, so I started with first grade. (I wasn't a genius or anything; I repeated second grade soon after.)

To All My Writing Teachers

To my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Valentine, who taught me that periods don't go at the ends of lines; they go at the ends of thoughts.

To my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Douglas, who first mentioned the metaphorical hamburger paragraph format.

To both of my third-grade teachers, Ms. Lydon and Ms. Fleming. One taught me that you could combine writing with numbers to tell a story about data, while the other taught me that memoir had voice.

To Mrs. Brownfield, Ms. Spindler. Mrs. Ashbrook, and Mr. Canon.

To Ms. Sauve who taught me to write lyrically, and to try to have fun writing, even while composing expository papers (not an easy task to ask a bunch of 8th graders).

To Mrs. Creasy who taught me how to write a thesis statement.

To my tenth-grade teacher, Mrs. Dunn, who informed me that I write "too Rococo" and then gave me a dictionary to figure out what that meant.

To my twelfth-grade composition teacher, Mr. McCatty, in whose class I first experienced the power of sharing one's own writing in an author's chair.

To all the teachers of the National Writing Project from whom I continue to learn, year after year.

To Addie Holsing, who taught writing and comprehension using "brain-based strategies" and "multiple intelligences" before the terms had ever been invented.

To Elaine Keysor, Liz Harrington, and Kenna McRae, all of whom make me wish I was a student again, if only for the chance to be theirs.

To Suzie Menerey whose daily generous sharing of originally created resources has helped to educate hundreds of students in many more classes beyond the walls of her own.

To my father who was my first writing teacher and who remains a heck of an editor.

To my husband who first encouraged me to blog, helping me leap from the antiquity of the quill pen to that new-fangled computer thing.

And to the amazing writing teachers in the classrooms of every school, be they English teachers, math teachers, science teachers, elective teachers, or PE teachers, who work to teach eloquent communication to students everyday.

Who would you like to thank? Please share in the comments section below.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron is the author of the new Writing Behind Every Door: Teaching Common Core Writing in the Content Areasand 'Tween Crayons and Curfews: Tips for Middle School Teachers (Eye on Education. She blogs at

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