Thank You, Teachers

By Abner Oakes

ISA's Director of Outreach


In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, several ISA colleagues reminisced about teachers whom they remembered from school. Here are a few:

Joan Marchese, Administrative Assistant, Level I
I remember Mr. Higgins for tenth-grade English, and we were reading Shakespeare, which I could not stand. I could not understand it at all. I didn’t get the humor, the innuendos, or the subject matter. Then, one day he said we were going to watch a movie. Well, anything was better than listening to him reading Shakespeare. It was The Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and I was mesmerized. I even watched it a few more times with his other classes and, with it, I began to understand Shakespeare’s language and really enjoyed the class the rest of the year. Even though I was always an avid reader, this movie and his teaching around it revealed a whole new world of language to me.

Scott Noon, Executive Director, Strategic Business Development
David D’Amato and Chuck Ames taught me to love math because they loved math. Mr. D’Amato taught my honors algebra class in seventh and eighth grade, while Mr. Ames taught me all four years in high school. Both excellent teachers taught their students the magical wonders of math, treating each problem as a puzzle to be solved and always appreciating the beauty of mathematical systems.

Not every path to the answer was prescribed. No, these gentlemen allowed their students the opportunity to explore and find different approaches to tackling the problem. Never once did I feel like I couldn’t “do math” or that I wasn’t “a math person,” because neither teacher allowed us to think like that. Persistence eventually paid off.

My classmates spent a lot of time at the board, showcasing our strategies and our work, and we learned from each other as well as the teacher. Today, I use my algebra all the time and enjoy the work I do with numbers, thanks to two math teachers who were more invested in my thinking than the answer I got. They modeled what we received — a willingness to persist, the ability to learn from mistakes, and the joy that comes from solving a hard puzzle. Thanks Mr. D’Amato and Mr. Ames!

Janet Price, Senior Director of Programs
My freshman high school English teacher, Sarah Blacher Cohen, gave me confidence as a writer and was my role model when I became a high school teacher. Her assignments made it impossible for her students not to find their own voice. When we studied comedy, she tasked us with writing an analysis of what made our favorite comic funny (I chose Tom Lehrer). When we read Don Quixote, we had to write our own chivalric romance. Ms. Blacher read mine aloud in the teachers’ lounge to great effect, which was my first success as an author.

Abner Oakes, Director of Outreach
I was an English major in college, after declaring chemistry and then math majors, both of which I failed miserably at. As I look back, it makes sense that I came back to English, for some of my most memorable teachers were in my high school’s English Department. Ms. Fox and Ms. Zito introduced me to Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, Ms. Drazba’s Shakespeare class still resonates, but it was Mr. Whalen’s vocabulary class that I remember very fondly. I know: A vocabulary class? It was one semester long, and he began every class with a quiz of ten new words, from “pugnacious” to “serpentine” to “confluence.” He shaved his head, back when people didn’t do this sort of thing, and wore black jeans and black turtlenecks and roamed the aisles of our class, asking us to stand and give the root for, say, “sycophant” (Greek origin meaning “revealer of figs”). He made our study of words exciting and ignited in me an interest in language that’s lasted to this day.

Savitre Jackson, Senior Operations Administrator
My ninth-grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Timms, worked magic on me. I was not particularly fond of math — it scared me, to be honest. But in Mrs. Timms’ class, I really understood it. When we did problems in class or were reporting on homework, she’d make us go to the board and solve our problems, showing our work. There’d be four or five of us at the board doing whatever problem we’d been asked to do, and then the entire class would go through each problem together with a public critique. But that was not awful since Mrs. Timms was kind and bubbly — she was also the school’s cheerleading coach — and easy to understand. She spurred enough confidence in me that I began signing off on my math problems on the board with my nickname, Pinkie — my signature paw print next to it with its swirly flourish. I was so confident in that class, I did well in it, and even my classmates started signing off on their problems too, following my lead. It was all because of Mrs. Timms and her magic.

Nate Dilworth, Senior Math Specialist
I have had the good fortune of having several teachers throughout my years as a student that were wonderful for me as a learner. All of my best teachers shared several qualities. They expressed care for me in our relationship as well as through their challenge to go farther with the ideas from class. They honored my thinking and created space for questions and debate in their classroom. While there are several teachers I could write about, Mrs. Trumble is someone I’ve been meaning to thank for some time.

As I remember her, Mrs. Trumble was witty and good-natured, and I enjoyed having her as a teacher. I felt cared for and appreciated in her classroom. In addition to teaching several technology-focused courses, she taught a marketing course designated only for juniors and seniors. I don’t recall the circumstances, but as a freshman in high school, Mrs. Trumble believed that I could handle the class and granted me permission to register for the course. It was a wonderful experience getting to think with older students and knowing that the teacher believed I could hold my own. This experience left an impression on me, and I’m grateful for it.

Thank you, Mrs. Trumble, for believing in me and creating space for me in your classroom.