8 December, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Lessons Learned From Our Favorite Teachers

Those Brave, Kind Manybest teachers

In terms of my education, I was a late bloomer. I came from a family who wasn’t overly concerned about education and, being the lazy child I was, I figured that gave me some sort of leverage to slack off as much as possible.

It wasn’t until I was 23, newly married and a new mother that I figured getting an education was the only way to secure some semblance of a decent future. Oh sure there were a couple of teachers in my early academic career who pushed me and believed me capable. (Mrs. Walker told me it was more than okay to love books. Mrs. Daigle told me I was limiting myself…then she told me that dating her son was “playing with fire.”) But it wasn’t until I was in college that I really allowed myself to believe I was capable of more. It was then and only then that any educator encouraged my dreams.

Tim Gautreaux taught me all about Southern Literature. He also taught me to write with my head. Bev Marshall taught me to bleed on the page, to write with my heart. David Hanson taught me that there was nothing at all wrong with loving Jane Austen, even though the “Gloria Steinem” in me fought her with every turn of the page. Eva Gold shared my love of Shakespeare and showed me how to understand him, to honor him. Paul Sawyer showed me how I could make a decent living as an English major. (He also had the best jokes and the best taste in music). Jayetta Slawson encouraged my love of Potter and made is quite appropriate to write about fantasy fiction in my thesis.

But those were not the only important lessons I learned. The thing about being an English major is that you make friends with English majors. All of mine became teachers. All of them pulled me through every graduate class, every paper, every exam. I learned from them all: Lauren saved my academic life more times than I could count; Michelle spent hours helping me prepare for my COMPs exam…and she did it with a hug and a smile; Amanda taught me about the marriage of theatrics and literature and how beautifully they can be exhibited; and Bryan. My sweet, sweet friend Bryan taught me how to be a better writer. He taught me how to merge lyric and the senses and let them paint worlds beyond imagination.

I’ve also had teachers I will likely never meet. Their lessons come in the form of the books I love best. They’ve taken me into magic, into myth, into the landscapes of the impossible.

The greatest lessons I’ve learned from all of these remarkable teachers is that none of us are bound by limits. None of us are incapable of constructing truly remarkable, truly beautiful lives for ourselves. Life itself is about learning that lesson.

—T.S. Tate



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