Imagine for a moment having your teacher tell you that you had to compete to sit in the front row each time you entered her classroom. Imagine her telling the class that she expected every student to raise her hand every time she asked a question and to vie for the honor to be called upon to answer. Imagine that teacher telling you that getting an education was a privilege that demanded you give your best, that you had to work hard, and then, that she motivated you to love learning so fervently that you were happy to work as hard as you could.
I was fortunate to have had that teacher in 9th grade and her name was Miss Leverich. Miss Leverich taught Language Arts at the Winsor School, and, looking back, she was my favorite teacher. My love of writing and literature was inspired by her profound knowledge and artful pedagogy. She was an incredibly talented, passionate teacher, and I was thrilled to have landed in her class.
Everyone in our class was inspired by Miss Leverich. She performed her magic in each and every class she taught, transforming us into sponges who absorbed all we could. Miss Leverich made writing and books come alive, and we all read incessantly to keep up with her. She would go into the world of a character, but through discussion and analysis, we came out with a better understanding of who we were and what we must accomplish. She knew everyone individually, and she did not let anything go – there were no casual moments in her classes. In retrospect, she spent a great deal of time teaching us the essence of analytical reasoning – the why and why not and pros and cons of each topic we covered. Even if we didn’t come up with the right answers, we learned something! She helped us become critical thinkers.
I did a ton of writing in her class, because I wanted to do well. Everyone wanted to do well and we never considered the dark side of failure, even though we demonstrated many imperfections in our journey through her class.
As a teacher, Miss Leverich was well organized. She had very high expectations of everyone. She understood the benefit of healthy competition. She had students work in teams and she knew how to get the best out of her students. It was evident that Miss Leverich loved the artistry of teaching and through her skill, talent and energy, she created a dynamic learning community that in the end resulted in students like me who exceeded my expectations of what was possible for me to know and do. She opened doors for me into the world of literature that have never closed since that first time I entered her classroom and for that I am grateful.
Martha Kanter is the Under Secretary of Education.
Ed. note: This post is part of an ongoing series of ED staff thanking teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.