Writer’s Block: Lifelong Lessons

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

The older I get, the faster the grains of sand seem to drain through the hourglass. It doesn’t feel like three months have passed since the Class of 2016 paraded on stage at the South Padre Island Convention Centre to accept their hard-earned diplomas, yet here we are about to begin another school year again.

Where has the time gone?

It’s been more than a few years since I’ve sat down in a classroom myself, but I can still remember the excitement of starting a new school year. I can still remember the smell of new clothes, the reluctance to try to get back on a normal sleep schedule, the excitement of meeting up with friends again. And though I may have not admitted it then, I also looked forward to seeing what new things my classmates and I would learn that year.

Though technology has become a bigger part of the educational realm, there are some things about school that remain the same no matter how advanced our gadgets are. School buses are still yellow, cafeteria food is hit-or-miss, summer reading lists always contain at least one book you’ll never like and one book you’re pleasantly surprised by. There’s something else that never changes, either: there’s always that one teacher whose lessons stick with you for life.

For me, that was my 10th grade pre-AP English teacher, Ms. Karen Gentry.

Ms. Gentry was the type of teacher students feared, not because she was mean (she wasn’t), but because she brooked no laziness in her class. Her stern demeanor meant students often mistook her for a battleaxe.

It was rumored nobody ever made an A in her class. That rumor was only partially true. Students earned A’s, but they didn’t come easy and they didn’t come often. I think I can count on one hand how many I earned writing analytical essays for her class.

What we students learned about Ms. Gentry once we had spent some time in her classroom was that her tough exterior masked an intense passion for being an educator. She not only coaxed us into being technical writers, but taught us how to more effectively examine that writing and the pieces of literature we studied. (If she were here right now, she’d gently chide me about how many “to-be” verbs I’ve used thus far in this column).

She was indefatigable and her passion for showing us how to think critically sunk in more often than not. By the end of the year, the majority of us would call her our favorite teacher.

I had the opportunity to come back to visit her during a college break. I was lucky and caught her during her conference period. My worry that she wouldn’t remember me was soon allayed when she walked up to a desk and said, “You used to sit right here.”

We spoke for just a few minutes before she had to prepare for her next batch of students. Though it took several years before I put the skills she imparted to me to use professionally, I rely on those lessons today.

Is there a teacher whose lessons have inspired you for a lifetime? Let us know online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.

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