Today is National Teacher’s Day, and I just want to take a few moments to thank some of the influential teachers in my life.
I’ve always been blessed with a family that supported my creative pursuits, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some truly awesome teachers who strove to foster my creativity.
Although I’ve been an avid reader and writer for much of my life, I actually struggled with reading at an early age. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Garfield, is credited with helping me through the struggles I first experienced when learning to read, and lighting the spark that would one day blossom into the raging fire that is now my passion for writing. My memories from those days twenty-some years ago are rather fuzzy these days, but I’ll never forget the care and dedication Mrs. Garfield exhibited, and how she nurtured that budding author.
The next teacher who would have a significant influence upon my future career as a writer was my senior school (British equivalent of middle school/high school) English teacher, Ms. Coffee. By the age of 11 I no longer had any troubles reading, and was well on my way to having a very vivid imagination – dragons, mermaids, and friendly monsters abounded in my fertile imaginings. Ms. Coffee nurtured this creativity, and was the first person to encourage me to delve deeper into the stories behind these fantastical characters. It was also around this time that I first stumbled across the writings of Anne Rice, and from there my love of vampires and all the other creatures that go bump in the night was born.
I was 13 when my parents and I moved from the UK to the US, and landed here in Colorado. While my love of writing and reading persisted with our trans-Atlantic move, my other creative passions would take the forefront for the next several years. High school was a rough time for me – not only was I adjusting to living on a new continent, far away from my family, but I was also going through that age-old teenage transition of “finding myself.” I’d been bullied and tormented by classmates pretty much since grade school for one reason or another, and unfortunately, high school was no different. During that time, art became not only a passion, but an escape from a miserable reality that at the time didn’t seem like it would ever end. Art was a way for me to expel my demons, and create something beautiful, something I could take pride in. At that time I was sure that I wanted to be an artist, and studiously took every single art class my high school offered (except for sculpture – I can’t stand having clay under my nails!), including AP art my senior year. During my four years in high school there were two teachers in particular who had a big influence on my life – Ms. Davies, my homeroom and art teacher, and Mr. Dowling, possibly one of the coolest teachers in the history of ever.
Ms. Davies was like that cool Aunt who’s always got smudged paint on her fingers and listens with an attentive heart and open smile. She counselled me through some tough times, and had a fondness for calling me her “little paradox” – a goth chick who had a more accepting attitude than most of the “normal” kids. Ms. Davies saw through the layers of black and lace to the tender-hearted kid inside who was just looking for a little acceptance.
Mr. Dowling on the other hand, was more like a friend/mentor than a teacher most of the time. Blasting Pearl Jam and Janes Addiction in his classroom, he never once batted an eyelash at my Marilyn Manson t-shirts or black lipstick like so many of the other teachers, and was always willing to let me hang out in the art room after school. I think I probably spent more time hanging out in the art rooms than I did at home; those hours were by far the happiest ones during my high school career and sometimes, even now, I miss the feeling of quiet acceptance I felt during those hours. To say I was a bit of an awkward kid would be an understatement, and I often found a greater kinship with my teachers than my fellow students. It was through Mr. Dowling that I discovered a love for graphic and digital art that would later lead me to go on to art school after graduation, and pursue a degree in digital media. Who knows where I’d be now if not for that first digital photography class he encouraged me to take. Perhaps I would have gone on to be a Disney animator as I’d always dreamed of being when I was a little kid, or maybe I would have pursued fashion design as I’d originally intended to do when I graduated high school. A dozen possibilities were open to me at that key point in my life, and in the end I chose to study digital media.
My studies and the intervening years ultimately led me to a career in graphic design and marketing, and eventually to the man who has in many ways been the greatest teacher of all – the man I now call my husband. Mr. Awesome Sauce has been a steadfast partner, mentor, and companion along this crazy journey of embracing my passion to be a writer. Without his encouragement and patience, this dream never would have become a reality. Still, a piece of my heart will always belong to those teachers who came before and helped shape the person I have become.
My dreams for the future have shifted over the years, circling back around to my love for writing, though my love for art remains. I still derive great joy in drawing and painting (both traditional and digital), and probably always will. Now, I simply prefer to paint lavish worlds with words rather than brush strokes.
So, who are the teachers you are grateful for? Who would you wish to thank today?
Stay cool ghouls & boys,