Thursday, May 10, 2007


by Libby Hellmann

A good friend of mine left the business world 10 years ago to become a teacher in the Chicago public schools. He went back to school, earned a Masters of Education, and now teaches fourth grade. When I asked him why he gave up the lucrative income of a financial planner for the more modest salary a teacher makes, he said he wanted to be remembered as someone who gave rather than took. He wanted to leave the world a little bit better than he found it.

Over the years, he’s done some terrifically creative things on a shoe-string budget. Things his students will remember for the rest of their lives. Like the murals in these pictures that depict “technology through the ages.” The kids researched, designed, painted the mural all by themselves. They did such a wonderful job, in fact, that the mural hung in the Art Institute of Chicago for a few days. Students brought their families down for a special viewing. They drank punch and cookies and explained what they’d created to parents and friends. Chances are those students will never forget the experience. Or the teacher who made it possible.

Don’t all of us have a teacher who we’ll never forget? Who inspired us to reach just a little farther, and in doing so, changed our lives? For me, it was my high school history teacher, now herself an accomplished author. She taught me how to think, analyze, and most of all, how to write a paper. The secret, she said, was “T.E.C.” (Thesis, Evidence, Conclusion). It always worked. It made college a breeze, graduate school too. I still use it for articles and speeches I write professionally, and I taught it to my children. (For a price I’ll teach it to you). In fact, T.E.C. just might have been what eventually turned me into a writer.

But enough about me. What about you? Graduation time is upon us. Who’s the teacher you’ll never forget?

P.S. For all the mothers out there, you are the most important teachers your children will ever have. Enjoy your day!


Matt said...

That would have to be Bro. Tom Murphy at my old high school, Joliet Catholic.

To paraphrase Ray Liotta, as far back as I could remember I always wanted to be a writer.

Bro. Tom encouraged me. He was the first person to really criticize my work, to point out where I could improve. Moreover, he suggested a ton of authors to read, which was probably more helpful to me as a writer than anything else.

He also was the first person to publish my work. My first story appeared in the school's quarterly magazine. I still have my contributor's copy!

I am currently revising my first novel. Everyday, when I turn on my computer, I think of him.

Sara N Paretsky said...

My fourth-grade teacher, Patti Shepherd--she believed in my writing and even, astoundingly, encouraged me to read my stories to her the summer after I left her class. My ninth-grade history teacher, Bill Mullins, was another--I wish I knew what had become of him. I dedicated my book Burn Marks to them and to an English teacher who helped me work on prose style.

D.A. Davenport said...

My High School English and Speech teacher, Dee Jolles. She saw promise in me, while I couldn't see past my doubts, insecurities and crazy home-life. I stayed in sporadic touch with her over the years and she was the one I ran to when I started writing but was too chicken to offer pieces for publication.

Basically, she told me to pee or get off the pot.

She is so proud of the path I have taken in my fifties and never doubted in my talent, even while I could hardly believe in it myself. A dedicated, tough, clear-thinking woman who is one of the great inspirations of my life. I am honored to call her teacher and friend.

Barbara D'Amato said...

My ninth grade debate teacher, Mildred Meyer. She was tough. Somewhat sarcastic. I was shy, but I realized it was a good sarcastic.