Saturday, August 13, 2011

on appreciation: a letter to my favorite teacher

Dear Dr. Harper,
You were my most beloved teacher I have ever had. I took your College English class in my senior year of high school in 1997-1998. I wish I had kept up with you as a pen pal, the way you invited us all to do. I did for a few years, but then I fell out of touch the way sometimes happens in your 20's when you think your life is busy (before you have children, and you learn the meaning of the word busy). I'm certain you are shaking your head at my use of parentheses because you taught us they are almost never necessary unless parenthetically citing a fact [I'm also sure that was a run-on sentence. See how I cheated and used brackets? That was our favorite inside joke, if I remember correctly]. I still have your list of "Grammar Nuggets," as you called them. I refer to them often, mostly mentally, as you drilled them into my head so effectively that they are now stuck there forever.

I cannot begin to express my thanks for the multitude of lessons you taught me, both about the written English language and life. I have thought of you so often over the years. Your first education was not even a verbal one. I had seen you throughout my four years at Roswell High School, slowly and deliberately pacing the halls on your way to class. On my first day of your course, I entered the room, saw a cane, and immediately presumed your teaching ability to be lessened based on your disability, which turned out to be temporary due to a foot injury. I couldn't have been more wrong about your demeanor and intellect. Of course, as soon as you opened your mouth, I was won over for good. What a valuable example that was on not judging a book by its cover.

I was thinking about you again today as I am slowly dipping my toes in the water of freelance writing and editing. I owe any meager writing talent I may possess to your constant encouragement and good teaching. I desired to write you today both to express my gratitude and in the hope that I may have made you proud. How bereaved I was to learn that you passed away only a few months ago. Once again, you have taught me a lesson without even uttering a word. Correspondence is an integral part of life, and one that I will attempt never to take for granted again. How important it is to let those we love and appreciate know how much they mean to us, every chance we can get.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Wherever you are, I hope you are smiling down on us, your grateful pupils.

Warmest regards,
Justine

1 comment:

Justine said...

For her fellow students, Dr. Harper's obituary can be viewed on a Harvard University website: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/citizen-times/obituary.aspx?n=marcia-harper&pid=149835507&ua=fgs7ksdi8hwj24sfiyy62a%3d%3d

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