I had never really thought of myself as much of a writer. Throughout my elementary and middle school years, my research papers were paraphrases of content from the World Book Encyclopedia, and my creative writing essays, although elaborate, usually concluded with me waking up from a dream. (By the way, this doesn’t always work in real life.) When I received a low grade on my first paper in my 10th grade English class, I decided that sticking to math and science might be a good idea. I could solve a problem, but I thought I couldn’t solve the problem of how to become a better writer.
My English class that year was taught by a new teacher, Mr. John Ogden. He had come from an all-male boarding school in New England, which gave him a certain level of gravitas. More than 30 years later, I can still see Mr. Ogden standing in the classroom wearing his favorite seersucker suit, and I can still remember the stories of his four sons, all grown by that time. In that class, we read and wrote and read and wrote, and yes, I improved my writing skills over time. He gave us a formula for writing essays and helped us all believe that we could become stronger writers. Eventually, I took AP English and scored high enough to be exempted from English classes in college. In college, I found my way to the yearbook office my freshman year and never left, spending my senior year as the editor of what would become an award-winning yearbook.
I did major in math because I liked solving those problems, but now I solve new problems as a mass communications professor. I have advanced degrees in mass communication, and I’m now the author of two books on the topic of social media. Because of my position and research area, I speak to groups and the media quite frequently.
Sometime around 2002, I found Mr. Ogden’s email address and reached out to him. He sent me a copy of his poetry book called “Bookcase Quilt Poems” along with a note. The note says, “I say again how proud I am of your accomplishments. That you are a teacher especially pleases me and I know you are an excellent one because of your dedication, hard work, and intelligence.”
But as a teacher today, it’s what he wrote inside the book that really touches my heart. Here he says, “Thank you for remembering.” How could I ever forget?
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