Young lives. Old problems. New solutions.

We asked. You answered. Did a teacher change the way you saw yourself?

We asked our readers to send in their stories of incredible teaching. And they delivered.

Jake Turcotte/Staff

My thesis adviser once told me the world was lucky to have me in it. Her comment floored me. She helped me understand and appreciate my own intellect.

While reporting a profile on children’s book author Jarrett Krosoczka, I talked with his high school comics and animation teacher, Mark Lynch. Mr. Lynch helped him see the value in original thinking and artistry.

In his memoir, Mr. Krosoczka immortalizes in ink and paper the many teachers who changed his life. Reporting the story made me think about the teachers who shaped me. And I wanted to hear from others. So we asked our readers to send in their stories of incredible teaching.

We chose two stories from our readers. Their responses are edited for length and clarity. 

– Rebecca Asoulin, engagement editor

How to improvise accordingly

As a middle schooler, I signed up for play production with a teacher named Ms. Thrasher. Ms. Thrasher was a tall, elegant Los Angeles-trained actress who knew how to love and mold her students into the roles they would play. Come to think of it, Ms. Thrasher was not anything like her name sounded! 

I was short and full of energy, with puberty coming late to me. I was fortunate enough to be cast into the first play even though my only previous acting experience was playing charades with my family. I will never forget a romance scene set around a maypole. Maybe it was my background playing charades, but my real specialty was developed in improvisation.

Ms. Thrasher spent many hours working with us on different scenarios. We learned to flow seamlessly from improvising ourselves in a jazz band to a family dinner to the middle of a volleyball game, all at the cue of our beloved director.

That year, our improv group of four made the finals of the Los Angeles City talent show. Ms. Thrasher had successfully guided us to the pinnacle of junior high acting. 

At our 20-year high school reunion, three members of the improv group had made careers out of acting. As for myself, my first career was as a coach and teacher. Following in Ms. Thrasher's footsteps. I found I loved working with youth and youthful thinkers. I loved watching the students' eyes light up when they grasped a concept that was before unknown.

But what I became most grateful for was that when life threw me some adult-sized challenges, I was able to maintain my character and improvise accordingly!

 – Roy Gessford
  San Diego

'If you can think of it. You can make one.'

I was most fortunate to have several teachers that had a significant impact on my life. This will be an exercise for my memory.

My parents and I emigrated from Toronto to Buffalo, New York, when I was 9 years old. Only my mother completed high school. During all my years of schooling my parents tried to brainwash me about what I should be doing as the first member of our family to get a college education. I was told I should become a doctor, a lawyer, or "at least" a CPA (certified public accountant).

At Brooklyn College, I would sneak into the art studios and follow whatever work was being done. The art teachers would not let me be a fly on the wall in their studios. They directed me to approach the chairman of the art department, Ad Reinhardt, for permission to attend the studios. What did I have to lose? All the excitement was not in math or U.S. history classes for me.

He asked me what art credentials I possessed. I told him that I was on a high school art squad run by the artist Leon Freund. I quickly learned what a privileged high school education I had received. I didn’t need to sneak into class anymore.

I went to the next play production tryout. I hung in there as they began making technical assignments like stage manager and scenery fabrication. I was afraid if I did not volunteer I would be left out of this production and would never get a chance. The technical director then called out, "Who will work on the lighting?" I leaped up and said, "I will do that!" I got the job as an assistant electrician. A career was launched!

In one play, I wanted to use projections as part of the settings. It turned out that they did not make projectors that would fill the 37-by-92-foot length of the cyclorama (circular picture of a 360-degree scene).

Bill Hatch, my talented tech director, always said, “If you can think of it, you can make one." A little research on projected scenery gave me an idea and I built several projectors that fulfilled my desired designs.

It was Brooklyn College that prepared me for the career I wound up having. This is a direct example of what a good educator can achieve if they give a student the guidance and encouragement that keeps them growing.

 – Howard M. Brandston
  Hollowville, New York

This article is part of our "Your Monitor" initiative. To do our work well, we need to hear from you. Share your questions and stories here. 

[Bonus: Read about how author Jarrett Krosoczka illustrates gratitude – on the page and in life.]

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