Thanking my High School Teachers

English teacher Stephen Piorkowski in 2010.

English teacher Stephen Piorkowski in 2010.

I was an indifferent student until tenth grade. Before that, I had some fun teachers I got along with but for whatever reason, things began to click as I neared the end of my sophomore year.

By junior year, I was a different student, engaged and active in class, pulling down some reasonable grades and actually not overwhelmed by AP classes. And it was in those classes, AP American and AP English where I had my best experiences. In the former, Mrs. Gladys Clemmensen brought a friendly way to her classroom, but held us to high standards. We dared not be late with work but she allowed us wide-ranging discussion and debate. In the latter, Stephen Piorkowski got me to love literature. Prior to that, only my father could make books come to life (no offense to Mr. Beekman or Mr. Tobin).

AP English was magical for me. I was there with several close friends and there was a looseness to the class, as we sat in a circle and talked about books. We all signed up to make a birthday cake for one another, and it felt like a competition to make a shape or flavor that was unique. Our debates were loud and furious and we laughed. A lot.

Social Studies Teacher Gladys Clemmensen in 2007.

Social Studies Teacher Gladys Clemmensen in 2007.

I never had a relationship in college like I did with Mrs. Clemmensen and Mr. Piorkowski. The closest was Mary Lynn Broe at SUNY-Binghamton, who taught a freshman seminar that was okay. I got to know her when she arranged to have her friend, Ben Bova, come speak on campus and I helped with the arrangements (and got to dine with them both the night he spoke).

Guest professor and author Richard Price praised my writing in the one conference we had together, which certainly kept me on a path towards writing and editing but we never had a relationship.

College, given the size, has a distance built in between teachers and students for most classes. Therefore, thinking about Teacher Appreciation Week, I find myself traveling back to Jericho High School. I loved college, don’t get me wrong, but the teachers that seemed to make the most impact on me were there.

Today, the PTSA fed us as a thank you and various students have said nice things when it dawns on them what week is being celebrated. I stand proudly beside my fellow educators, but take this moment to look back and say thank you to those who saw the diamond in need of some heavy poilish.

One comment

Leave a Reply