This past week was Teacher Appreciation Week, and in honor of it, I am posting something I wrote about my current English teacher, Mr. Theriault. He is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for forcing me to do so.
“Young lady, do you need to change seats?” It was the first day of school my sophomore year, and I had completely forgotten to bring lined paper. I had quietly turned around to my friend sitting behind me to ask for a spare sheet so I could write our essay on the assigned reading we had over the summer. I was in shock and intimidated that I was scolded for asking for a piece of paper, especially on the first day of school. I was so scared of my new English teacher that I left class that day thinking, “Okay, breathe and relax, if it doesn’t get better, you can always switch to another class.”
Switching to another class would have been one of the biggest mistakes in my academic career, if not my life. I know it seems cliché, but it is true. I would have missed out on having an extraordinary teacher who does not just teach English, but teaches life. Shortly into the school year, amidst his ridiculously hard bi-weekly quizzes, he told us, “I am going to grade you on your effort in this class. The standard measures of competence and effort [by tests and quizzes] will have less value in my class; not so you can slack off, but so you can stretch yourselves to new levels without fear of damaging your grade because of it.” Though his class is one of the most challenging classes I have had, it is addicting; there are too many days in which I walk out of his classroom, wishing I could stay in English all day, thinking “This is way more worthwhile and meaningful than any of my other classes.”
It was in his class that I first learned how to properly read and annotate a book and was able to enjoy analyzing the syntax of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. It was in his class, that student presentations became something to look forward to, instead of a waste of a class period, as more often than not, they came with goodies and plenty of audience interaction which kept it interesting. It is in his class, and really only in his class, that I feel completely at home.
The wheels are always turning in Mr. Theriault’s head, thinking of how to make himself a better teacher, his lessons more fruitful, keep students more engaged, and how to make education less daunting. He is never afraid to share what he is working on with his students as well as the rest of the world through his blog and Twitter. Mr. Theriault has taught his students to share their work and thoughts, by assigning weekly blogging and a twenty percent project every year. Through blogging, I have written more this past year than ever before in the entirety of my high school career altogether. He has given us the freedom to develop our own voice, something that is so hard to teach, yet so critical for higher level writing.
Mr. Theriault is one of the only teachers I have encountered that will take time out of his class period, his precious fifty-four minutes of teaching time, to ask how students are doing. He will ask about the sports events that he couldn’t make it to and other school related topics, but he will also ask students how they are doing personally. If he sees that someone seems down, sick, or just exhausted, the first thing he says is, “Is there anything I can do to make your day better?”. From chocolate and hot tea to sharing half of his lunch, he is always there for his students. He realizes that sometimes his class isn’t the most important thing in our lives, and that our overall well-being is much more important than anything he could teach in an hour. He genuinely cares for his students.
I have been blessed to have Mr. Theriault as my English teacher both sophomore and senior year. As the number of days left until graduation dwindles down, it is a bittersweet feeling; the excitement of graduation and college combined with the sad realization that my time in Mr. Theriault’s class is coming to an end. I can see why he always has college students coming back to visit him; days in his class are treasured memories and visiting him brings them all back. Mr. Theriault makes a huge impact on student’s lives every year, and I can only dream of a world in which all teachers were as committed, caring, and compassionate as he is.