Do you remember your English teacher?

Remember YOUR English teacher?

Do you remember the English teacher you used to go to movies with? Or the one who wore crazy hats? Or the one who wore too much make up and spoke with a Hungarian accent?

A week ago, at the conference, I stood by the hot water dispenser, deciding between tea and coffee. A woman with coloured jewelry who was making coffee asked me what I do. I usually say that I am an English teacher, but that time I said I made games for learning English. “Wow,” she says, “how I loved English! How I loved my fourth-grade teacher. She was the most charming teacher I ever had. She was singing and jumping and laughing and doing shows and reading aloud and having fun.”

From fourth grade, yes?

So yes. From the fourth or fifth grade, or the seventh or twelfth grade. Every time I go into a new place and say that I am engaged in English, right away I get the story about the English teacher. They are always mythological. Always unusual. Sometimes they are witches, but most of the stories are about someone special and wonderful. The English teacher. They even made a movie about her and wrote a book about her. In short, the English teacher is something else.

This is Maureen.

my English teacher Maureen
my English teacher Maureen

My seventh grade English teacher. And 12th grade. You can understand from the black-and-white picture, that that was long ago. She was very young – almost our age then – and unlike anyone else; an American with a heavy accent and interesting ideas about life. I was a mediocre student, opinionated and chuzpanit. In seventh grade, one time she annoyed me. I slammed the door and did not return to the classroom for a week. After that week, I apologized half-heartedly, because I really had to, but since then I’ve really liked her. We sang American folk songs with her, memorized dozens of unusual verbs, played, and debated politics. When I reached 12th grade, she reappeared in my class. This time, as part of the search for the meaning of life, we went with her, some of her students, to meet with a group of Americans, preachers of love and sharing; 70s New Age stuff.

I loved Maureen passionately. We are friends to this day.

Who was your inspirational English teacher?


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