Being raised in a family of accountants, land-men and nurses, I never had actual dreams about writing professionally. When I was younger I wrote like some kids watched TV. I enjoyed it so much that I would scribe pages on pages of fantasy stories in notebooks and journals I gathered over the years. Everyone had always told me I was a great writer and I had a talent but no one ever suggested the field of journalism was what I should pursue professionally. That was until sixth grade, when I was introduced to my hero, Mr. Simpson.
Grant Simpson was a 30-something-year-old man with dark brown hair and cheery blue eyes who always wore dapper clothing to his classes. He was my English and history teacher, back when I attended a school that had dual classroom days. For half of the day we would be in Mr. Simpson’s class and the other we were with Mrs. Cosby for science and math.
Mr. Simpson was a strong writer, he loved books and Chuck Taylor sneakers. He loved them so much that he and his wife both wore white, personally customized Converse to their wedding (he even had a photo to prove it). He loved to laugh and was almost always smiling.
From the very first week of school, he remained an honest teacher who had us treat him as a human, and not a superior. Of course, we all adored him and this resulted in little to no conflict within the classroom. He taught with an admirable passion for the English language and stressed to change the way students thought of reading and writing.
For most of my life, I kept my passion for writing a secret because it seemed as though none of my friends were interested in the same stuff I was. While I loved learning, my exceptional grades were kept secret because I didn’t want to appear uncool to my peers, who found subjects like math and science to be more interesting than English. I loved all of my subjects, but my love for English became apparent from the very first time I met Mr. Simpson.
To engage his students, he created a system of comforting and therapeutic skills to encourage us to engage in his class. My favorite habit of his teaching was the 15-20 minutes of class he allowed us to share any kind of story we would like. He attempted to make every student speak and tell any interesting story, squeezing the shy out of everyone in the class completely. We all became a huge family, we were his biggest fans and he was our most respected adult. The best part about the stories was that we could share anything we wanted, even sad things. The sad things we all shared with each other were the best because no matter how deep, we all listened to each other. After someone would speak, we could comment back to people with suggestions or compliments, and then we would clap for that person.
The best storyteller of us all was Simpson. When he spoke about his past, he used grand hand gestures and intimate details that painted vivid and particularly hilarious pictures in all of our heads. Our class would laugh so hard we would get noise complaints. Almost everything he said was a knee slapper, leaving young boys and girls gasping for air through fits of giggles. His love for attention to detail was incredibly astonishing, and probably my favorite part of his class.
He taught in a way that let the students decide, making us feel responsible and adultlike. One of his guarantees was that he wanted to make all of us exceptional writers by the time we left him for the seventh grade. We spent almost every day writing in some way. He gave us brilliant and interesting prompts, fantastic projects where we could be as creative as we wanted to, and when he saw someone was working particularly hard he would shout them out to the whole class. He was the first teacher that treated my work like it was written in gold ink.
He was a hard critic without putting a single person down like teachers sometimes may accidentally do. From the very first time we began writing, he saw the potential in me that my mom and grandma did. He saw writing was what I loved and taught me to never again be embarrassed of my “gift”, as he would call it. Because of my passion for his class, I always tired to finish my work early to impress him. When he noticed this, he chose me and two other kids who loved writing as much as I did, Erika and Kayden, and set us up with extra work every day.
The work we did for him was the most interesting I’d ever done, challenging us to write several stories a week and then share them with the class. I remember holding my completed work in my hands and beaming with pride that I had been appreciated. I took eighth grade practice STAAR and grammar tests to improve my writing and if I had written something particularly wonderful, he would ask for me to leave my work on his desk and he would have it read and edited by the next day. I was so very lucky.
Mr. Simpson taught me persistence, self-love, self respect and being proud of my work was the most important part of being a writer. He made everyone in our sixth grade english class comfortable in our own skin, no matter what backgrounds we originated from. When the end of the school year rolled around, Mr. Simpson informed me he had nominated me for English Student of the Year, a title I won and earned from his incredible teaching. He was so very proud of the progress I had made since the beginning of the year and was never shy to inform me I was going somewhere.
Now, I think about Mr. Simpson whenever I feel bad about my work or start to doubt myself. If he was so moved and touched by my work, why couldn’t the rest of the world appreciate it, too? I will forever be grateful for everything I learned about what I was capable of creating, no matter how big or small.