I was helping host a Facebook cover reveal party, and it got me thinking about mentors and all the people who have supported me over the years. I’ve been really fortunate in that regard, and I wanted to write about a few of them.
Mrs. Truehardt was my first real mentor. She was our gifted & talented teacher, and we were in a pilot program where she followed us through several grades. (They call it “looping” now, and maybe they did then and I just never knew it.) She really encouraged us to develop our skills and interests, and she knew my strengths were in reading and writing. I remember once I forgot to write a paper, so I wrote a poem and handed that in instead. She loved it! We were all so sad when she retired after our fourth-grade year.
In high school I had Mrs. Bason, the journalism teacher, and Mr. Crivello, who taught honors and AP English Lit. Mrs. Bason was a fellow Trekkie, and we even once went to a Star Trek convention together. When I graduated, she gave me a book of poems inscribed with: “I know you’re going to be a great author someday.” Mr. C (as we called him) also encouraged my writing. He gave me a cassette tape of Jackson Browne music, too, which I still have, even though I’ve long since bought the albums in digital format. He’s the reason I got the highest possible score on the AP exam, too.
As an undergrad I was lucky enough to study with Dr. Douglass S. Parker (“Doc Parker”), the man who coined the term “parageography.” He had two offices on campus—one in the HRC and one in Waggener. Both were so crammed with stuff he couldn’t hold office hours in either. So he would send a note around to me and tell me to put on my one good suit—the one my parents had bought me for job interviews—and meet him at the faculty lounge. And he’d sneak me in and we’d have lunch and talk about his days in the war and in Memphis… He played in a band, if I remember right. Trombone? Doc Parker said I reminded him of his ex-daughter-in-law and wished I’d learned enough Greek to help him with his translations. He wrote the recommendation letter that got me into grad school, and he emailed me regularly to check on my writing and whether my world (AElit, which I had developed in his parageography course) was published yet. One of my biggest regrets is that he didn’t live to see my work in print. He was a wonderful champion.
And in grad school, one of my thesis advisors, Lisa Diercks, was the one to get me my first job by recommending me for an internship that eventually got me hired. I showed zero aptitude for book design, but she saw something in me anyway, for which I’m very grateful!
There are many more people in my life who have guided and supported me, but I can’t name everyone, else this list would be eternal. But I like to take moments now and then to remember that I didn’t get where I am all on my own—I’m not that good, nor quite as independent as I like to think. Good teachers make big differences in the lives of their students, and for that I’m forever thankful.