I want to write a letter to my high school English teacher, Jim Schweigert, and tell him thank you for giving me the world when he led me to discover good literatures. In particular, for making me read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Maybe my letter to him is a collective letter to all my high school English teachers. Because whoever made me read All’s Quiet on the Western Front opened my mind to how sometimes we find ourselves on opposing sides for reasons we don’t understand but we are more alike than we realize. And also whoever made me read Man’s Search for Meaning, because that book gave me power over my life and taught me how to choose happiness.
I’d like to write a letter to two math teachers I had. They taught me the why behind the what and if you know the why, you can figure out the how, and math makes sense. I loved math with those two teachers. And gave up on math my senior year when I asked why and the teacher simply replied, “Just because that’s what you do.”
I’d love to write a letter to a number of my BYU literature professors. Shakespeare. Renaissance Lit. And the man who helped me read Moby Dick like it was meant to be read. Something I’ve been unable to duplicate since.
And Marilyn Arnold. Who introduced me to Willa Cather. And who taught me not in English class but in another lecture I attended after I graduated simply because she was presenting, that it’s ok, even warranted, even a calling, to sing loud and speak up when you are the only female voice in an all-male anything. I truly loved every one of my literature professors, but I have a special place in my heart for the women who taught me the right kind of feminism for me–looking after, speaking up and working on behalf of those trodden upon and whose voices are stifled. The were strong, not strident. Sure, not shrill. They lived and spoke truth and I didn’t even realize it until after, looking back. And knowing from when came those truths that grew in my heart and compelled me to want to hope for and work for a better world.
[Day 130 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]