My teacher Mrs. Henry: the one who expected more
By Amanda on October 7th, 2010
This is the third in a series of posts from the OOM team looking back at the special teachers who helped shape who we are today. We hope you’ll share yours on your own blogs, in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter with the hashtag #myteacher.
When I look back on the years I spent in a classroom – and all the happy, sad, frustrating, difficult, and proud moments therein – there are a few teachers that jump out as being those teachers. The ones who taught you something beyond the blackboard. There was Mrs. Burdo in the first grade, who did not accept mediocrity, even though I was only six. There was Mrs. Crouch in the third grade, who held daily math bees and showed me that, yes, practicing those flash cards would pay off, and yes, I could even beat the class mathlete at his own game (we later developed a bitter math rivalry that would last through the rest of elementary school). Later on, there was Ms. Kudrick in high school, who helped me find my math confidence again when things became much more complicated than multiplication tables. And then there was Mr. Carnevale my senior year, who encouraged me to go to film school to become a film critic (actual quote from an awards ceremony speech: “… and she will join the cast of the hit daytime show “Ebert and Hebert”).
I owe so much to these people who helped me find my way in the world. But there was one teacher whose life lessons have shaped so much of who I am today: Mrs. Henry, eighth grade, Advanced English and Drama.
The first class started with a bang: “I’d like you to take out your textbooks. Okay, now put them away. We’re not going to be using those this year.” And with that, we were off.
Rather than read bite-size portions of stories from the textbook, she assigned us entire novels of serious literature. For Mrs. Henry, it was only by staying with a text for weeks that you could truly being to understand and appreciate it. I had always been a reader, but in her class, I began to understand what that word really meant. She taught me to think critically, to interpret, to analyze, to question, and to really read something. Today, I get strange looks when I lug a giant copy of The Portrait of a Lady on the subway. But I learned in eighth grade that literature isn’t something to be afraid of – it’s something to embrace. Turns out, there’s a reason these books stand the test of time.
And Mrs. Henry’s class was hard. I remember working harder, studying longer, and staying up later than I ever had before. She never gave out 100%s – if you got a 95% in Mrs. Henry’s class, it was like getting 150% from any other teacher. Looking back, I realize now that she always set the bar juuussst out of reach so that we would always have something to strive for. And while I used to stress that her grading was ruining my GPA, I see today that thanks to Mrs. Henry, I’m constantly asking of myself, my work, and the world around me: “How can I make this better?” She taught me to always rise to a challenge, to set high expectations for myself, and to never underestimate the power of a great book.
Now it’s your turn – what teacher will you always remember and why?
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