Remembering a very special teacher emerged as I started thinking about my scholastic experience. There were ups and downs, but a few teachers really stand out. Today I’m going to tell you about my English teacher from high school, Miss Barbara Clark.
Remembering a Very Special Teacher
First Impressions Aren’t Everything
She certainly looked different than my previous teachers. Her dress was more sophisticated and her size couldn’t be ignored that first day of school over 50 years ago. Yet soon, her words and her smile were all I noticed. As a serious student, I appreciated her innovation. Rather than face the prospect of boring Beowulf in senior English literature, she convinced the curriculum coordinator to offer specialized classes. I quickly signed up for Creative Writing, Humanities, and Contemporary Authors.
Innovation Offered Me a Keen Interest
Although prior to AP classes, these college prep class choices were probably more fun. Can you imagine receiving a grade for reading your favorite author and writing an essay? I chose Ray Bradbury. Although there was a requirement for the number of books or short stories to read, I easily exceeded it as I read all I could find in the school library and the city library within the time period prior to composing my report.
And Miss Clark took us on field trips in Humanities. Architecture as art was the subject of a trip to Tampa, Florida. She opened our minds and hearts to the hidden significance of a rose window in an historic Episcopal church, pointing out other stained glass art as a method to teach scripture to parishioners during the Middle Ages. The knowledge I acquired in her classes enabled me to ace tests for college credit at Polk Community College (Polk State College now) in both Humanities and English.
Sometimes it Takes Time to Bear Fruit
Creative Writing was my first experience with the concept of the power of words. It sparked a hidden talent that smoldered until I found my voice in Julie Colvin’s May 2015 Wellness and Writing Retreat in Sedona, AZ forty-four years later. An exploration of my published works will give you more insight into my life journey between these writing experiences.
While augmenting my memory with research for today’s article, I found another student who admired Miss Clark, Wendi Wooddell. Wendi graduated nearly a decade later than I. She also went on to college where she chose journalism as a way to feed her love of literature. However, when Wendi graduated, the State of Florida was begging for teachers. Although teaching was not her expectation, Wendi applied for an English teacher vacancy at Winter Haven High School. Since she didn’t have any teaching classes during college, she went through her stash of handouts from Miss Clark to plan that first year as a teacher. As her knowledge of teaching increased, Wendi continued to use her stash of gold from Miss Clark, further validated through professional education and district in-service classes.
Excellence Fosters More Excellence
Wendi went on to excel during her 33-yr career at WHHS. Like Miss Clark had in 1991, Wendi also was awarded the English Teacher of the Year by the Florida Council of Teachers of English in 2010. That led to her receiving the Polk County Teacher of the Year, also in 2010. Finally, in 2011, she received a National Teacher of Excellence Award from the National Council on Teachers of English. In contrast, Wendi felt her highest honor came during her retirement party in 2016 when Winter Haven High School named a building after her.
And Your Favorite Teacher?
These are just two stories of the positive impact Miss Barbara Clark had on her students. How many more examples are out there? I’d love to hear about your remembering a very special teacher in the comments below.
Love from a life-long learner,