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To celebrate StoryCorps' National Day of Listening, founder Dave Isay is gathering stories about great teachers. Isay is the editor of Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps.
Mr. Winner, 1 of my junior high school science teachers, gave us the "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" assignment on the 1st day. I wonder how common that is?
And Mr Francois Charpin (rest his soul), thanks to whom I finished my Masters. We'd have to drag him to class, where he'd look at us and say, "What are you doing here? You'll learn nothing at school. You should be in the libraries." If it hadn't been for him accepting to be the director of my dubious masters thesis, I'd have dropped out. I'm glad I stayed.
Mr. Brodsky, AP English teacher at Cardozo High School. He was inspiring, funny, and trenchant. Kids used to beg him to insult them, because his insults often rang true and told you things you could think about forever. He sure popped my bubble when he said I might end up as one of those "naive Leslie Caron types, running around with their artist portfolios" but not knowing much about the world. That changed my ideas about my artistic career. But he also gave me an A- for proving that The Grapes of Wrath was an existentialist novel, even though he had his doubts when I told him my project. He made me feel like an adult with that. I'll never forget that. The way he treated me made me approach all teachers after that as if they were human beings just like me.
Same goes for Mr Hochberg (not a teacher but my principal) and Mr McLaughlin of PS 22 Queens (5th grade teacher), who treated me with respect and encouraged me to excel even though others had made me feel inadequate before them.
And to Mrs. Metviner, who always remembered me when she'd see me around the neighborhood years and years later. Made me feel important.
Thank you to all these great teachers.
Agnes Zick, the fifth grade teacher who realized I already knew what she was going to teach that year, and allowed me to sit in the back of class and read good books -- literature, history, biography, art -- EVERY DAY ALL YEAR.
I learned more that year than the other five put together.
(And, of course, thanks to my parents. who were the main reason I already knew that year's curriculum.)
My english teacher Mr Charles E Turner in McKelway J.H.S.178 B'klyn in 1964 he epitomized what a great teacher is all about.He took us to Conn. to see Sheakspeare our minds were open to everything,he knew this.Back then there was no teacher burn out. back then we all had autograph books when we gratuated,Mr Turner wrote in my book what I always tried live by, just one page molded my life forever.
To Carmen :It is no accident that wherever we point the telescope we see beauty,that wherever we look with the microscope there we find beauty. It beats in through every nook and cranny of the mighty world.You are a person who radiates that beautiful essence of life -beauty and truth! Always keep your wonderful zest for life and sense of humor.I will never forget you Deepest Affection Charles E Turner
I have to recognize with much gratitude two writing instructors at Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn (now part of NYU) - Anne Eisenberg and James Waller. I was fortunate enough to have studied with and learned from both of them. I received far more detailed and descriptive feedback from each of them than I ever did after I was accepted into the Masters program at a very prestigious journalism school.
I took two classes with Waller and appreciated the readings he assigned and new authors I discovered thanks to him, and as one of his students, you couldn't help but notice how much care and preparation he put into each of his lessons.
Both Eisenberg and Waller are gems and anyone in the technical writing program at Poly should seek them out and learn from them.
At high school, I had the pleasure of having several teachers form who I am today-Cathy Condon, Raymond Schuyler, Fr Steve Ryan, Vincent Rivecchio, and Fr Thomas McGahee. They all instilled in me a sense of social justice, compassion, pursuit for excellence, and empowerment. It's because of them that I've decided to help others by becoming a teacher.
Of the many influential teachers in my life, Dr. Kenneth C. Crannell, Emerson College, receives endless thanks, gratitude and love for challenging, encouraging, praising, and passing along a torch of sorts- passion for speech and voice and performance and poetry. My work in accent reduction, and teaching, and performance is always and continuously an homage to him. Thankyou my dear friend and mentor.
I 'd like to thank Mrs. Howery, who was the science teacher in the Garfield school system. I was an immigrant put into the 6th grade and she was the only teacher who paid any attention to me. I thank her for teaching me english very quickly. She gave me her daughter's dictionary and I translated the science book every day after school (for about 3 hours). She made me cry every day the first week of school, but she became my favorite teacher ever!
If you want to find a teacher that you liked and were friends with, you should put their name into the search of Facebook. Many middle-aged and older people are using FB to stay in touch with their friends and family. I recently got in touch with a favorite teacher from many years ago and it has been very meaningful for both of us. She was a wonderful English teacher who taught outside of the play book. She inspired me to think and create. Of course that' when teachers were actually smart and motivated and not just union zombies teaching out of a canned program and looking for a pay check and early pension.
I want to thank Dr. June Wang at SUNY-College of Forestry. She showed me over 30 years ago that you can be a great teacher, a great researcher, a loving mother and wife and a passionate gardener. Her lessons on how to balance all aspects of your life were invaluable. I too am a college professor today with a great career, a happy home and a fabulous flower garden where I always take time to stop and smell the flowers.
Mrs. Brown, my ninth grade English teacher. Mr. Atwood, my ninth, and AP History professor.Ms. Burton, my twelve grade English teacher.Miss Jackson, my first teacher in the United States. She was patient, kind. I will always be grateful for all my teachers who saw the potential in a young, skinny immigrant.
Dave, I love StoryCorps. Thank you!
Sometimes audio just does not capture the whole story. Are there any plans to add video to the project?
Yes, thank you Mr Greitzer, David Greitzer music teacher and conductor of the Mixed Chorus at Morris High School in the Bronx. I was there from 1959-1963. Mr. Greitzer gave me the keys to the 3 manual pipe organ in the auditorium so i could teach myself to play. I was already a piano student so I had to learn pedal technique. It was due to this generous gesture of Mr Greitzer that I took an interest in the organ and later became a student/graduate in organ studies and the NY College of Music--which eventually was absorbed into the music department of NYU when the small private school on East 85th Street had to close due to lack of funds in 1969.
I wrote the following after Serena's death a few years ago (My belly dance teacher):
I wanted to be a ballerina as a child. Dance was everything, but in the end, the too tall shy girl with big breasts failed (not good for Balanchine's ballet world of 90lb 5'5" dancers). For years there was a hole in me because I was not a dancer.
Years later I wondered into Serena's class on the day before Thanksgiving. The fact that it was right before Thanksgiving is important to the story. In my family Thanksgiving was the day that my grandmother and her brothers would play greek music while we rolled back the tables and danced.
Scott played the Oud while Serena taught. That day I met Serena and recognized immediately a great artist. This was a person I could look up to as a mentor and respect. Moreover, Scott's music touched me. It sounded like Thanksgiving. My God...It was beautiful!!!
After this, I went out of my way to attend Serena's classes. At the time I lived in Montclair NJ and had little money since I made a living teaching adjunct college art classes. I couldn't afford the bus from Montclair so would drive all the way to Union City, park the car, and take a $1.50 bus from there. With traffic it could take a VERY long time to make it to class. However, I was dancing and my spirit felt beautiful and free. Serena was the woman I wanted to learn from.
However, I thought I could never dance professionally. My ballet days were long gone. I was in my thirties and thought I was too old to start a dance career.
Yet, Serena taught me that belly dance was not the dance of youth (like ballet). It was a woman's dance. She taught me that it was about beauty and femininity.
I traded my sweat pants for harem pants and a red coin lined hip scarf. I let my hair down and bought make-up for the the first time since I was a teenager. I felt beautiful.
Serena was always critical. Sometimes her criticism was too harsh. Yet, it was always loving. I knew she believed in me and my potential. She saw me the way I see clay (I am a ceramic sculptor). She saw a future dancer who she could mold.
I will miss her telling me that I need more red lip stick and I need to work on my arms.
Serena encouraged me to take my first dance job. I had no confidence in myself. However, I went for it. It was a crazy job where I and five other dancers served hors d'oeuvres in belly dance costumes. We were suppose to each dance a song, but in the end, never did. This was the beginning...
Soon there were many gigs. Serena introduced me to an exciting and wonderful new career. It was the best job I every had. I went to many stimulating places and saw so much life that I would have never experienced sitting home on a Saturday night.
Serena believed in me. She made me a dancer. I will always be thankful to her for that.
I felt connected to her and loved her.
John Hudson, my geography professor at Northwestern University, not only opened up worlds of destinations for me but gave me the best advice ever - don't worry about grad school, get out there and live.
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