Every student has a teacher that made a profound impact on his or her life and changed it's course forever, whether it be negative, like Mr. Ostrowski, the English teacher who suggested a young Malcolm X take up carpentry and abandon his legal aspirations which disheartened him and led him into a life of crime or positive like Oprah's third grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan who by taking interest in a promising student (and letting her lead morning prayer) inspired her to become (arguably) one of the greatest teachers of our time.
The teacher that had a profound effect on me was Ms. Kent. She taught me English in middle school, which was and still is my favorite subject, though I can't give Ms. Kent credit for that; my mother taught me to read when I was four and ever since I've been devouring books like Skittles. Once I discovered audio-books I became unstoppable.
But as an instructor Ms. Kent was special.
She was the only teacher that I can honestly say I've never had a bad experience with which is very difficult for child with (untreated) ADHD to say. I've had a teacher tie me a chair because I had trouble sitting still, one who would dump my perpetually messy desk in front of the entire class and a teacher who thought it'd be a great idea to watch "Gone With The Wind" in class and then write an essay on merits of slavery from point of view of slave owner. Did I mention I was one of five African-American students in the entire school?
Aside from never having a bad experience I can only look back at my time spent in her classroom with overwhelming fondness and admiration. She was profoundly inspiring and led by example. Always collected and in control I've never heard her raise her voice. I've never heard her refer to herself as a feminist, and I'm not entirely sure if she would consider herself one, but she did impress upon her students, who were all coincidentally female in my class, to keep their independence and even explained to us why, despite being happily married, she chose to keep her maiden name. She said it was a way to keep her identity which at the time was a concept a little over the heads of 13 year-olds, but made perfect sense years later when trying to connect with old friends on Facebook and realizing I had no idea what their names were anymore.
She was the only teacher who made me feel intelligent. My silly ideas were sparks of creative genius. If I brought her flowers from my mother's garden and didn't know their names, she insisted I did research and learn about them (pre-Wikipedia). When I erroneously abbreviated the name of my town on a letter, she suggested I become a "local hero" by going to my local post office and requesting to make the abbreviation official. I've never done it but it does cross my mind every once in a while. When I once wrote an particularly good book report she had me read excerpts aloud in class while extolling the virtues of my work. I didn't think I was writing anything really great at the time. I was just doing a report on a really good book I read; a book I still have after all these years. The only other time this has happened when a college professor was gave me the highest grade in the class for an essay I wrote, coincidentally, on the time spent in Ms. Kent's class.
If you've been anywhere near this blog or any of my social media accounts you'll know that I've designing a journal and launched a Kickstarter project to fund it's production. It was always my plan to dedicate the book to Ms. Kent (my original plan was to name a school after her, but baby steps...). So, I sent her a handwritten note to tell her how much her lessons impacted me and ask her permission to dedicate my book to her.
To my complete surprise & delight I received a response from her.
To hear from her after all these year galvanized me and made me more determined to reach my goal. So, I've streamlined my reward tiers and lowered the prices to get my journal into the hands of as many people as possible as quickly as possible and hopefully give so many just a fraction of the inspiration and encouragement that Ms. Kent gave me over 20 years ago.
I've added new rewards tiers to enable you purchase multiple journals at a discount and lowered the prices or added value for all. I would also encourage anyone interested in inspiring a young girl in need of a creative outlet to consider backing at the ADDING KARMA level. You get two journals and young woman in need gets one.
To reach my goal by July 16th I simply need at least 1000 people to pre-order a journal at $13 including shipping. It sounds like a lot of people but if one person is inspired to purchase and sends it to two people who are inspired to purchase, who each send it to two people, and on and on... a miracle can happen.
The first 250 people can pre-order an Adding Bliss journal for $10 including shipping.
So, if there is a teacher who's inspired you I urge you to reach out and thank them. If you are a teacher I'm here to tell you that when you really love what you do, you will find that reading, writing and arithmetic are the least of the lessons your students take away from your classes and they keep them in their hearts and minds forever.
Below you'll find the email from Ms. Kent. I've deleted identifying information & am contemplating framing it. I think I know how Oprah must have felt when Mrs. Duncan surprised her on her show in 1989. It felt like the literary equivalent of a hug I didn't know I needed and I can feel my 13 year old self beaming with pride.
It was a surprise to hear from you...and I'm so honored that you thought of me. It's a teacher's greatest accomplishment to have a student take the classroom lesson or inspiration out into the world as part of their journey. I'd be honored to have your creative writing journal dedicated to me.
Your beautiful note reached me at ******** where I have been teaching language arts and literature to 6,7, and 8th grade for the past ten years. In addition I've spent some time working for *********** Community College teaching English as a second language to adults. It has all been very rewarding. I frequently meet students and teachers from ************ and we share great memories. Every student has a success story. It's good to see how beneficial those years there were for so many.
I'll access your website from a friend's house who has high speed internet. I just have snail mail at my house. I'm still busy reading a lot. Glad to see you kept your maiden name. It says who you are and where you're from.
My deepest appreciation for the honor of the dedication. My best wishes for your continuing success in whatever you do.