Here’s a little something I wrote in honor of my high school English teacher, Constance Person. It was a big class in a big high school in the big city, and I was terrified of being called upon. I was a shy country mouse who was used to small classes in a small school in a small Oregon town, but after my mom passed away I went to live with my dad in Portland.
Mrs. Person had a habit of arranging the desks in the shape of an enormous square, with an opening at one side so she could access the chalkboard. She spent most of her time in the center of the classroom, lecturing and facilitating discussion.
Mrs. Person was getting along in years. I later learned she had retired the very next year, and passed away only a few short years after that. I am deeply grateful to have been counted as one of her students.
Always at the center, whirling, twirling, you set minds ablaze, a fountain of sparks, wise queen who ruled your class with knowledge and experience. Small in form, colossal in spirit. Next thing I knew, you stood behind me, your gnarled gardener’s hands upon my shoulders, driving home the possibility of what I might become – a writer. I reddened and sweated.
You addressed the class, gripping my shoulders, steering me. A boy slides down in his seat, feverish, cloaked in black, blown apart, wrecked. A boy’s heart cries out Mercy, Mercy!
Your confidence unfolded the delicate paper of my awkwardness. I, a drooping flower starved for water, restored to health by the nourishment of your faith and sight. Now I turn toward you as a sunflower to the sun.
A man stands up and says thank you, thank you, thank you.