Allison here. This post is going to be ironic because it’s partially about grammar and it’s undoubtedly filled with terrible grammar mistakes. Let me live.
In fifth grade, my teacher handed out glossy orange books, the words “Sadlier Grammar” written across them in a distasteful comic sans font, announcing that we were beginning a unit on writing. Filled with the rules and idiosyncrasies of the English language, the book was a wonder to me as a young writer trying to flourish into a novelist; in my mind, this book ranked somewhere between the beauty of the flowers that bloomed along the sidewalk on my walk to school and the vastness of the Grand Canyon I had peered down into a few years prior. I had struck gold. If I knew everything in this book, I thought, surely I could learn how to write a short story, an art that had recently been introduced to me. Equipped with my orange book and my teacher’s lessons, I spent the year shaping a story about a hamster chasing the elusive treat of a carrot. When the year was over, our short stories submitted for grading, the class returned their books back to our teacher. But when my turn came to hand over the sacred text, my teacher pushed the small volume back into my hands. “Keep it,” she told me. “You can write novels one day.”
Writing a novel was a distant goal at the age of twelve, but my teacher’s words made my silent dream to become an author feel valid. The hundreds of books I had poured over well past my bed time, those very stories that I adored, became attainable pursuits, they became the model for something I could someday produce if I so wanted. Suddenly I, equipped with my Sadlier Grammar Workshop practice book and my teacher’s support, could become the next Roald Dahl or Lois Lowry.
By eighth grade, studying biology had pushed my desire to become an author into my peripheral as I became entranced with genetics, dissections, and lab reports. My biology teacher told me to take the SAT subject test even though I was 13. She pushed me to read Richard Preston’s novels and she handed me extra labs when I couldn’t stop talking about how much I loved the previous one. I adored sitting with my textbook and learning about something I had never heard of before, science. I stayed up reading about the Human Genome Project and my teacher told me I could work on countless projects in the science fields. She stayed with me after school nearly every day, discussing the lesson she had taught earlier in the day. My biology teacher made my future feel unfettered; she seemingly handed me the entirety of the field of science and promised me I could explore any of it.
My algebra teacher kept in touch with me even after I had left middle school and he gave me textbooks when I wanted to learn precalculus on my own. When I started my advanced physics course, my previous physics teacher demanded to look over my course textbook so he could be certain I was learning everything I needed to know. He gave me topics I should learn to supplement the course and wrote down a list of books I should read to help me learn the math I would need to know for higher level physics.
Today, my junior year writing teacher travelled over an hour to visit with me after flying in from Asia, just so we could grab lunch and I could tour her around Manhattan for a few hours. Between our conversations about friendship and writing and college, she encouraged me to continue to pursue my future intentionally and to maintain strict priorities, even when it seemed like others were achieving more glamorous goals than I. When I mentioned how difficult it was to be attending Baylor in the fall instead of some ivy covered institution, she talked about my maturity in picking a school that was right for me, even when other people didn’t appreciate my decision.
Year after year, I have encountered teachers that have worked far above their job descriptions to inspire me to grow into a independent learner and creative thinker. Teachers have supported me through my transitions from middle school to high school, and again from Tech to home schooling. They have endlessly encouraged me to become someone I am proud of, both as a student and as a person.
Yesterday, my mom laughed as I listed off the math courses I plan to take before I graduate college.
“Well there’s the rest of the calculus sequences, and then differential equations and linear algebra, and of course I’ll need to learn plenty of statistics…” She interrupted my ramble with a laugh. “You’ll be a math teacher before you know it.” She was right; I have long been considering the option of becoming a professor and teaching math is a passion of mine. Just like my dreams to become an author morphed into a desire to be a scientist, so I know that my ambitions will likely change as I enter college, where I will undoubtedly be influenced by new professors and encouraged by adults willing to speak into my life.
Maybe one day I will stand before my own throng of helpless students seeking guidance, or maybe I will work in a quiet lab with nothing but Bunsen burners to keep me company, but whatever my profession, I will always be indebted to those that chose to use their careers to pour into my own.