Retired teacher; community and UW volunteer
How did your interest in education begin?
There was never a time when I doubted that I would be a teacher, perhaps as early as kindergarten in Virginia when I told my kindergarten teacher that I would be best cast as Snow White because I was the only child who didn't speak with a southern accent. My inner life developed with my reading life. Written as well as spoken English shaped my commitment to the world. In the segregated South where my schooling began, I looked across the field from my new school to see the hand-me-down church where the children of color were schooled. It was that inequality of educational opportunity that motivated me to teach, and to teach all children.
How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?
I taught high school English in public schools for 30 years; first in Massachusetts, then Wisconsin, and finally back home in Washington State. I taught and served as English Department Chairwoman at Bothell and Woodinville High Schools. In the last few years of my professional life, I came to the UW to co-direct the Early Entrance Program, now the Robinson Center for Young Scholars. There I was principal of the Transition School and the English teacher.
Throughout my career I was professionally active, holding an office for the National Council of Teachers of English. After receiving my MAT at the UW I taught other teachers through the Puget Sound Writing Project. I now volunteer one day a week in an English classroom at Garfield High School. I serve on the Ambassador Board for the College of Education and the College Board for the College of Arts and Sciences.
What education issues are you most passionate about?
- Teaching of writing. In the process of writing we learn what it is we have to say. Every student/citizen needs an opportunity to be articulate, for his or her voice to be cherished by the student and heard by the community. Writing is thinking, and critical thinking leads to self-confidence in what may seem a chaotic world.
- Respect. Schools should be grounded on respect for students, their families and their cultures. It is respect that leads to inquiry, to wanting to know each student, and for students to learn to ask thoughtful questions that lead to discovering their place in the world.
Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.
Professor Roger Sale, Department of English, UW. When I was a sophomore English/education major in the 60s, Roger Sale was a young, dynamic teacher of Shakespeare. He not only read his students' essays, but commented with dialogue about how ideas might lead from there. He returned those essays in 2 days. He asked challenging questions that stemmed from his students' thoughts, so thinking was never over. Although he could have taught graduate seminars in some arcane aspect of literature, he chose to teach high school teachers how more effectively to teach writing. From the time I was an undergraduate, until this year when Roger died, he was there for me as I sought his mentorship in deciding where I should teach and how I should teach. He was the teacher I wanted to be. I never came close.
Share an unusual or fun fact about yourself.
Since October 2004, I have maintained a poetry box situated on the fence surrounding my Seattle home. Each month I make over 300 copies of a poem-for-the-month for passersby to take with them. It started as a "protest" concerning what I felt was the abuse of the English language in the 2004 presidential election. In protest, I made copies of Robert Frost's evocative sonnet "October," ("Oh hushed October morning mild / Thy leaves have ripened to the fall") to show beautiful uses of the English language. After the election, when I took down the folder of poems, neighbors and strangers asked for the next month's poem. I realized after 30 years of "forcing" teenagers to read poems, I now had an audience begging for them. January followed with Emily Dickinson's "Hope is a thing with feathers."