My favorite teacher actually started out as my least favorite teacher. Jeanne White was my 9th grade English 1 Honors teacher at Wade Hampton High School in 1998. Mrs. White terrified me. I literally associated the smell of the building that her classroom was in with sheer terror.
I went through elementary school and middle school being the smart kid. I wasn’t really challenged; I just did my work, paid attention, and did well.
In Mrs. White’s class, however, she’d dock points if you spoke with incorrect grammar. Not being prepared for class was just not an option, and heaven help you if you turned in a paper that wasn’t already stapled and ready to go. Creased paper? Trash. No name? Trash. No staple? Trash. I definitely learned the hard way, but I learned it quickly. She never smiled. She never said “good job.” Mrs. White taught me what it was to truly think and use my brain.
For the first time, I was challenged, and I liked it. I wanted more. I wanted to read more, to write more, and to study more. I wanted to show her that she could up her expectations all day long, and I could rise to the occasion. I struggled in her class, but it was a good struggle. I ended up being her teacher’s assistant in 10th and 11th grade. I graded her papers, helped her with lessons, and peer-tutored. In 12th grade, I joined Teacher Cadets and then went to college to be a teacher.
Years later when she found out I had become a teacher, she wrote me a hand written note telling me how proud she was of me. I still have that note.