Remembering a Very Special Teacher

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

Remembering a very special teacherAlthough 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,

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10 thoughts on “Remembering a Very Special Teacher”

  1. I, too, was a student of Miss Clark, 81-84. Recently, after reading a monthly report I had written, my boss told me that I was exceptional at business writing; I fully credit Miss Clark and Mrs. Mayberry for my ability to coherently put my thoughts on paper. They also instilled in me a love of reading. It was okay to slip in Clancy or Cussler during the “free reading” time.

    “You afflicted feebs!”
    “What’s a Grecian urn?”
    “You have ‘snoo’ on your sleeve.”

    1. Hi Mike,
      Funny you mentioned Mrs. Mayberry. I too felt she made an impact on my life. I still use Latin for certain words today… like effect vs. affect. Mrs. Mayberry taught me the difference and I never mix them up.

      Thank you for your comment. I’m sure they thank you too.

    2. Miss Barbara Clark was not only my teacher from 1978-80 at HCHS, but also became a dear friend. She was also the Anchor Club faculty advisor and I was a member when my friend Wendi Jordan Wooddell was the president. I became president my senior year and worked closely with her after school during the service club projects.

      I took advantage of every opportunity to be in her classroom or a part of any group she was involved with actively. Barbara instilled a love of learning like no other teacher and we were all so much richer for it.

      Her laugh was the most infectious and I remember when she and Bob Thomason ( another HCHS amazing teacher) were in a play together that had a packed house every night in the auditorium.

      We remained friends long after graduation and saw each other whenever I was in town to visit my family. She was a beautiful spirit that inspired many of us to do our best and make our mark in this world.

      1. Mary Anne,

        Thank you for sharing your memories of Miss Clark. As her career at Haines City High School progressed, so did her students and her impact.

        So nice to hear about Bob Thomason also. Although I didn’t have him as a teacher, my husband, Wayne Simons, remembers him fondly.

        1. Dawn,
          Your husband was also a great teacher at HCHS and knew my family well. He taught my brother Kendall and became friends with my parents in later years after we had grown and gone. Be sure and tell him hello.
          Mary Anne

  2. Miss Clark was my English teacher for three years 82-85. Thanks to her I got a high AP English exam score and didn’t have to take college English. Her lessons carried me all the way through my PhD. She was the best teacher I ever had.

  3. Mrs. Clark was my English teacher from 1975 -1978. I took Creative Writing, Jr. AP English and AP English from Mrs. Clark, and absolutely loved every minute of it! She really challenged us in so many ways. I went on to become an engineer and was told many times throughout my career that my writing skills were above average. I credit Mrs. Clark for this. I really miss her.

    1. Thank you Millicent. It’s great to read that a fellow science major excelled in writing!

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