Pay It Forward: Teachers/librarians that Inspired You

Pay it Forward

Hi guys! For those who didn’t catch our Monday and Tuesday posts this week, we are doing a week of paying forward the many blessings we at Pub(lishing) Crawl have had. A week of talking about who and what we’re grateful for—and a week of giving back.

This all came about after we heard about a book called Poison by Bridget Zinn. We are all so incredibly inspired and moved by her story—and by what her husband is doing for her—that we just had to participate.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Bridget or her book, she was a librarian and writer who finally reached her dream of publication. But she passed away last year without getting to see her book release. Her final, beautiful tweet to the world was, “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.”

Many of us here at Pub(lishing) Crawl cried and cried after reading Bridget’s story—and we all realized how very, very blessed we are. We thought the best way to count our blessings would be to give some back. But first, a bit about Bridget’s book Poison:

PoisonSixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

If you want to help spread the word, please head here for more information or simply tweet/Facebook/whatever about it. POISON released yesterday and is now available wherever books are sold.

So without further ado, in today’s post, we’re giving our thanks to our past teachers and/or librarians who have inspired us and shaped us to become who we are today. These are people who rocked our worlds.

Kat Zhang

Kat SquareI’ve had a lot of fantastic English teachers, to be honest. It’s hard to pick a particular one that sparked my love of reading, because I became a huge reader very early. If we want to go way back, though, in first grade, there was a lady who wasn’t exactly my teacher, but I think she was supposed to be the remedial helper for kids who struggled with reading. I’m not sure…that was my six-year-old understanding of things, anyhow.

Anyway, I remember her because she was completely lovely, and she was only supposed to call kids out of class who showed trouble reading via some sort of scoring they did, so they could work privately together. I didn’t technically meet the requirements for “needing extra help,” but she and I were friendly, and she used to call me in sometimes just so we could read together and talk.

I was only at the school for a year, but we wrote letters to each other (real post letters!) for a short time after I moved away. But seven-year-olds are very flaky letter writers, so…. 😛

Jo Volpe

Joanna VolpeFunnily enough, I never had an English teacher get me particularly interested in books…I already was interested. BUT…I did have a math teacher named Mr. Wing who was amazing. It was my worst subject, and he didn’t let me give up. We met after school, and he would make the math fun. It was 8th grade, so we were learning Algebra. I am still pretty good at Algebra over any other math subjects. He also was the coach for the football team, so he obviously had a way of inspiring people. There weren’t enough teachers like him. Cool guy.

Erin Bowman

Erin BowmanTwo teachers from my high school years come to mine. I loved every single classic we read in tenth grade English and I think most of this was due to my amazing teacher. He had a way of making everything fun, even the tests. Yes, the tests. He turned them into puzzles and games and twisted even essay questions on their head. I specifically remember an essay question regarding Lord of the Flies that went something like, “If the boys on the island had been voted off Survivor-style (this was back when Survivor was new and HUGE on TV) who would have won and why?” This teacher, simply put, made reading and learning FUN. He passed away last year and I really wish I would have had the chance to tell him how much he impacted me as a reader and lover of stories.

The other was my creative writing teacher my senior year of high school. She started each and every class with a five minute writing exercise, almost always with props–pick a postcard from this stack and write about the location, grab an article of clothing from this bag, and write about the character wearing it, etc. I can’t even put into words how much this woman influenced my writing and creativity. She was such an inspiration and was one of the first people I emailed when I sold my debut. (Yup, we’ve stayed in touch loosely over the years.)

Jodi Meadows

Jodi Hi-Res Square Ahh, this one is hard! Of course, the teacher who put WAIT TILL HELEN COMES in my hands was a huge influence. She read my first bit of writing (a shameless copy of WTHC). But the librarians at my first middle school — they were something special. They recommended books, discussed them with me, and encouraged me to think about books in ways I never had before. They also provided a safe place for a shy girl to spend her mornings.

Julie Eshbaugh

Julie Eshbaugh picWhen I was in 8th grade, I had a wonderful English teacher who gave us an assignment I loved so much I still remember it! Well, I remember it because I loved it and it broke my heart. See, the assignment was to write a short story set against an event in history. Another requirement was that we include a quote from some piece of writing that was written at the same time in history. I remember that I wrote something set against the Civil War and my quote was from Emily Dickenson. I was SO EXCITED about this project I could hardly wait to turn it in (though I no longer remember what the story itself was about, I remember that I was really proud of it.)

My teacher was really great—she was super supportive and told me how well-written it was, but then she was forced to break it to me… the Emily Dickenson poem I quoted in the piece may have been written at the time of my story, but it wasn’t published for years after. This CRUSHED me! Despite this inconsistency, my teacher gave me tons of encouragement and suggested that if I worked on it and made some changes, she would do what she could to help me get it published! This teacher was the first person to EVER suggest that I could write something good enough for publication. I don’t know what eventually happened – we moved onto the next unit I guess – but it doesn’t matter. I will never forget this early belief in me and in my potential as a writer.

Leigh Bardugo

Leigh BardugoMy sixth grade humanities teacher was a former Marine (and a ginger). He was totally strict and a little terrifying, but he had us write real research papers over the course of the semester. I think I did mine on the cave paintings at Lascaux. It wasn’t “fun” exactly, but it turned out to be an amazing foundation for every bit of academic work that came later.

S. Jae-Jones (JJ)

JJI didn’t exactly have just one English teacher who inspired me because I was ALREADY a voracious reader and at the top of my literary criticism game, but I had one who changed the way I looked at literature forever. He was my junior year English teacher. He was the first person to make English (for the lack of a better word) “sexy” to me. He didn’t teach, at least, not as I had experienced it until then. He talked at us for the entire 50 minutes. He started with a theme/topic in the book and rambled on various tangents (I learned so much about history and linguistics and pretty much everything in the world from him) before somehow magically bringing it all together by the end. A lot of students hated this style of teaching (although it was awfully similar to the style of teaching I got in my college courses a few years later) because you couldn’t be “tested” on anything. The only thing that mattered in his class was that you read the book, that you had an opinion about said book, and that you could back up your opinion about said book with solid analytical writing. I was a good student (inherently good at finding the right knack of getting good grades with the minimum amount of work), but this was the first time I was not only good at a subject, but passionate about it.

All good teachers understand, as Hector from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys says, that the passing down of knowledge is an inherently erotic thing. I was alive and stimulated about books in a way that I hadn’t been before, and it was refreshing. I CARED now, whereas before I had only cared insofar as it might affect my GPA; moreover, if a subject made me think and work hard for said A, I resented it. (I was That Kid.) But he was the first to open my mind to passion about literature, and that passion eventually began to spill over in other aspects of my life, including subjects I found difficult (biology).

(Needless to say, I was utterly infatuated with him. It didn’t matter he was 51 when I was 16—I was smitten. Oh yes, I was That Girl.)

Rachel Seigel

Rachel That’s a tough one. I honestly can’t name a single librarian that ever made an impact on me, but since my 4th grade teacher introduced me to The Phantom Tollbooth, I’d give her a lot of credit. It’s the books she read to us that I remember most vividly, and made me hungry for more books. I remember a readathon in grade 3 that I participated in, and I remember reading a lot of books for it, but I think it was more motivated by a desire to win than anything else. 🙂

Amie Kaufman

amiebiopicWhen I was in primary school I had a wonderful library teacher called Mrs. Amiet. She brought in amazing authors to speak to us, always had time to recommend books and talk them over, and loved doing new things to get us excited about reading. I remember her reading us a picture book wrapped in brown paper and having us imagine the illustrations, then unmasking it so we could compare our vision with that of the illustrator. She introduced me to some of my favourite books, and I loved her library!

In grade six, I had Mrs. Rundas. She got us into a camp at a writing retreat called Dromkeen, but we’d already spent our camp budget for the year! She wrote to our parents and explained what a great opportunity it was–they volunteered to supervise and sent along food to reheat for meals. We met authors, talked books, and I was bitten HARD by the bug. When we got home we wrote and bound our own books. It was the start of my journey!

Susan Dennard

Susan DennardI know I’ve talked about two librarians who both really inspired me: Zena Gibson and Beth Lunsford. They both introduced me to science fiction and fantasy (as did Mrs. Gibson’s daughter, my childhood best friend) as well as some great classic literature. I wouldn’t be the reader I am without these women.

But I also wouldn’t be the writer I am if not for Bette Chesser. She was my English teacher in 5th and 6th grade, and she taught us things SO far ahead of our “age group” that it’s crazy to look at in hindsight. We read Macbeth when we were 10–and not once did it seem strange.  She treated us like the intelligent people we were, and our age never factored into the challenges she set for us. I learned how to use English to express myself on a grammatical level as well as on a creative level. Because of her, I was never afraid of a book “too big” or “too classic”. I was never afraid to write a paper or a poem. That kind of education is priceless, and I have no doubt it’s why I am a writer today. 🙂

Marie Lu

Marie Square In eighth grade, we had a very willowy young English teacher who would always spend the first 15 minutes of class reading a chapter to us. She was a GREAT reader—very expressive, with a really pretty voice. She read us Christopher Pike books, I think, and I remember that everyone in the class, even the ones who weren’t much into reading, ALWAYS arrived on time, eager to hear the next chapter of whatever book we were on. And every day when she finished, there would be an audible sigh of disappointment as we had to wait until the next day to break the cliffhanger. Many of us would just lose patience and run off to check out the books for ourselves in the library. Man, I loved her so much! I really think she instilled the love of reading in quite a few reluctant readers.

And those are some of the amazing people that have inspired us here at PubCrawl. We’re curious to hear if you guys have any stories about inspiring teachers and/or librarians, or educators in general. And lastly but certainly not leastly, in honor of POISON and Bridget Zinn, we’re running a giveaway of THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner, a fantastic and inspirational book about the craft of writing and publishing. Enter via Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bridget Zinn’s first YA novel, POISON, releases this week from Hyperion! Bridget died from cancer in May 2011 at the age of 33, but now—nearly four years to the day from her diagnosis—her novel is at last reaching readers. On her behalf, her friends and family (and now us! Total strangers!) want to celebrate her accomplishment and help get her book into the hands of readers. Please help us spread the word about POISON and give thanks for all our many blessings.


23 Responses to Pay It Forward: Teachers/librarians that Inspired You

  1. Carolyn Mar 13 2013 at 7:23 am #

    All the reference librarians at the main branch of the St. Petersburg Public Library were fabulous. In the days before the internet was so readily available, they unfailingly helped me with research for my books, gave me kind and polite answers, and tracked down anything related to books I asked. Kudos!

  2. Tiffany M Mar 13 2013 at 7:47 am #

    I had a math teacher in grade 10 and an English teacher in grade 12 that really had an impact on me. I always did well without much effort in English but he got me to try and show how goo I could be!

  3. Kit Grindstaff Mar 13 2013 at 7:54 am #

    What an amazingly timely gratitude post! I’ve literally just finished writing to my teacher at New York’s Gotham Writers Workshop, Alex Steele, whose courses gave me a fantastic foundation in craft. But as much as that, if not more, he gave me faith in my writing and the confidence to continue. With my first mg novel coming out in less than 4 weeks, my gratitude for that feels especially intense right now.

    Not to mention, for life itself. How fortunate am I to see my book in print? Not so Bridget. I didn’t know her, but like so many others who are moved and saddened by her story, have been tweeting and posting on FB . And there’s that joyous smile of hers, still shining out from the page…

  4. Brooke Mar 13 2013 at 9:07 am #

    My English teacher in HS. It’s why I became an English major!

  5. Shannon Pease Mar 13 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I moved around a lot and never went to the same school for more than a year so it was difficult to get to know any of my teachers or librarians well, but there is one that stands out…Mr. Broadbent. I didn’t have a class with him until I enrolled into community college for a couple of semesters. He was that one teacher that every other student avoided because he was tough and that’s something I appreciate in a teacher since their jobs are hard enough as it is. That takes bravery and dedication.

  6. Megan Duff Mar 13 2013 at 9:25 am #

    My high school teacher Mrs. Carlson! She was my AP Lit teacher, adviser to the school newspaper and the adviser to our schools Language Arts Academic Team. Did anybody else have a LAAT????

    It was the best! We learned literary trivia, read books, had essay competitions, etc. As a future English major it was MY THING 🙂

    Mrs. Carlson was fantastic, so fun and challenging and so so very smart. My high school career, and therefore my college career, would be a wildly different thing without her.

  7. Tess Mar 13 2013 at 10:57 am #

    I had a remarkable sixth grade teacher named Mrs. McClure who assigned my first ever story-writing assignment. I wrote a fantasy story about a princess living in a glass palace and the prince who rescues her turns out to be Ferdinand II of Aragon (which would make the princess Isabella of Castille… yeah, it makes no sense whatsoever but I was already such a history buff even back then). Anyway, Mrs. McClure, incredible teacher that she is, waxed lyrical about my story and even wrote me a note that says she can’t wait to see my books on her bookshelf someday. That note gave me such encouragement, and to this day I still think of Mrs. McClure as the first person who saw potential in me as a writer.

  8. Alexa Y. Mar 13 2013 at 11:36 am #

    This post has me so inspired to write a post of my own about the teachers that influenced/inspired by reading and writing and helped it to flourish. Two people immediately popped into mind – my third grade teacher Mrs. Mihevc (which I hope I spelled right) and my high school English teacher Mr. Bermudez. I definitely will have to expound on what they did precisely in a post on the blog, but thanks for reminding me how important it is to note that there are indeed people who have influenced my reading & writing!

  9. Stephanie Allen Mar 13 2013 at 11:40 am #

    As amazing as my high school English teacher and librarian were, I have to give a huge shout out to all of my history teachers in high school. I HATED history (which anyone who knows me now would have an impossible time imagining), and then in 10th grade my mom forced me to take AP World History, and that teacher showed me that history wasn’t just a bunch of boring old dead guys in books – it was real and alive and relevant. Long story short, I took every single AP history class my high school offered (from equally amazing teachers – I was so lucky!), majored in history in college, and now I’m a social studies teacher (or will be once I find a job).

    Also, if not for those teachers, I probably wouldn’t be writing, because all of my ideas are inspired by things I learned in history classes or by reading history books for fun.

  10. Krispy Mar 13 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    I’ve been lucky to have a lot of supportive teachers throughout my childhood and high school years. In particular, I have my 6th grade homeroom and English teacher to thank for encouraging my love of writing. Then in high school, my freshman and senior year honors/AP English teachers were great. They encouraged me and engaged me, and overall pushed me to be a better thinker and writer. They challenged me – all with wit and humor. I will forever be thankful for their support.

  11. Rowenna Mar 13 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    I know I had many encouraging and incredible teachers, but the one that really sticks out to me is my high school English teacher. He was a published writer and a believer in–nay, a prophet of–a very minimalist style of writing. His Bible was Strunk and White. Mine was Tennyson. Obviously, we had our differences in what we considered great writing. But one day he was grading an essay I had written and exclaimed, “Gah, you keep using all these adverbs and I want to mark you down for it, but you do it so well that I can’t!” For the first time someone had looked at my work critically, disagreed with what I was doing stylistically, and still praised it–and that was huge for me.

  12. Jamie.M Mar 13 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I cant even remember my teachers names it’s been so long.

  13. Viki S. Mar 13 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    My Trig teacher, Mr. Wellington, in HS was just an all around great guy who really looked out for all of us kids. He died of cancer my senior yr of college. I’m sure he’s in a special place because he was SO good to all :).

  14. Steph Mar 13 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Most recently one of my humanities teachers in college really got me to remember how much I loved writing again. She gave us these journal assignments where we had to pretend to be someone from a given time period (dealing with a particular conflict during that) and we had to do research about what life was like back then, and then do a journal entry pretending to be someone from that period. Those assignments taught me so much, and they were so much fun. I love them. She basically “forced” us to get into character, and always encouraged us to do it with all senses, to really paint the picture well. It was fabulous.

  15. Sorcha Mar 13 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I had an English teacher who was so wonderful. He was hilariously gruff and smoked at least 60 cigarettes a day out of his classroom window between classes but he had this way of making you feel really smart, and literate, and special while he was telling you how stupid your were being.

    It’s like he knew you could do better. He was one of the people who made me love Shakespeare, funnily, not my drama teachers (of which there were many!).

  16. Kim Mar 13 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    I really didn’t have a librarian or teacher that made me want to become a writer. Ms. Nickles, my final AP English teacher in high school, was an interesting teacher. I had just been getting by in my English classes without really thinking much. I could read a book and analyze it quickly and efficiently, I was good at writing essays, so it was never something that challenged me. Ms. Nickles was a petit and extremely energetic teacher who forced us to do unique projects that really made me think. We read the Handmaiden’s Tale, and I had to come in to discuss it with her (alone, it was part of the project). That was fun. I had a fiction professor in college (I don’t remember his name) and that was my first experience into writing fiction for real.

  17. Andrea Mar 14 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    As someone who is/was mildly dyslexic, I got to have extra reading lessons, which meant that in second grade I spent some time with Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Harrington in their reading haven tucked away in one corner of my grade school. They introduced me to so many entertaining books, and for homework they would give me these huge ziplock bags with four books in them to read. I can’t believe I’ve never thought about this but that’s most likely why I became an avid reader.

    Mrs. Feldman took over after that; she was the same grade school’s librarian, and I can’t remember the title’s of most of the books she recommended but I remember loving them all. She also read to my class once a week in the library, and it was probably my favorite part of grade school.

    But possibly my favorite teacher of all time was my sophomore English teacher Mr. Fischer. He was the best teacher you could ever hope for. On top of being awesome and inspiring, he did the most to improve the writing of every student he had though his revision process. After receiving our graded papers, we had a week to revise and hand them back in. We could do this as many times as we needed. A parent at a parent-teacher conference asked wasn’t that a lot of work? And Mr. Fischer responded it was, but it was worth it to see us improve our writing. The last quarter of the class was devoted to writing a novella, and his feedback on my murder mystery made me think that I could be a writer.

  18. Jasmine Stairs Mar 14 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    Not in formal schooling, but at a writing workshop I did a few years ago. I got to go to Clarion, where the teachers are established authors. At the beginning I wanted to do well to impress them, but a.) that didn’t work, and b.) I burned out so fast that I was becoming disillusioned by the pressure. It was Kij Johnson, in the last week, who told us we were all talented and told us to not waste that talent on trivial things. It was exactly the kind of boost and kick in the pants I needed, and I go back and cherish that bit of encouragement sometimes.

  19. cait Mar 16 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Being homeschooled as a kid, I think it was my mum (aka “teacher”) who inspired me a lot! She got me hooked on books and I’ve never looked back.

  20. Alwyn Mar 16 2013 at 3:21 am #

    My 2nd and 3rd grade teacher was a fabulous lady who always had so much energy and never put anyone in the class down (as is so commonly and easily done in French schools). She encourages us all to do our best and have fun with it all the time.

  21. alicia marie Mar 16 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    There was a librarian that I really loved as a kid. He was a lot of fun and he was who I always went to when I needed to find anything. He also would always have some book for me when I’d come in. He was there for a long time after I got older and would still take the time to say hello and offer his help : )

  22. Rebecca Mar 18 2013 at 10:58 am #

    My writing professor in college was amazing. Our big class project was to revive the school literary magazine, and each student had to write a piece for publication. I’ve always been self-conscious about my writing, so this was pretty terrifying, but my professor sat me down after class one day and told me that after reading my piece he thought I had great potential as a writer. That was a huge boost of confidence and totally inspiring, and I’ll never forget it.

  23. Kendra Mar 18 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    In the eighth grade I had an amazing teacher who really just cheered us all on. She didn’t DO much but helped us all begin to stay true to our messed up selves just like others would. She did things the fun way we would want to and pushed my writing to make me have more confiedence in my writing and myself. This year the librairians at our school library are also so amazing listening to us all rave about our books and just keeping us loving to read no matter what. They are almost like friends now to me when I bring in my books everyday.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.