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  • I had a couple of teachers who made a difference to me (both positive and negative) but the woman who pops immediately into my mind is Miss Moo. Her real name wasn’t Miss Moo, but that’s what she told us to call her because she liked the sound of “Moo” better than her real name and because students through the ages called had called her “Miss Moo” since the beginning of time.

    I met her in my second year of high school. I’d been transferred from another school because my mother thought that my friends at my old school were making me depressed. (Wow, I haven’t thought about that in a while!) Well, they were not making me depressed, I was just depressed. At my new school, I felt surrounded by people, at age 15, who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. I picked something that seemed reasonable: journalism. I attached myself to the newspaper staff (they all seemed to hate me) and wrote my little articles about pep assemblies and bios about new teachers. Every once in a while I’d sneak in a hard-hitting exposé about the horrors of the school changing the lunch schedule, or how random searches were being conducted of all of the lockers. I was getting very good grades in most of my classes, including journalism, but flunking out of Honors English. At one point, quiet me stood up in my English class and told the teacher that just because he said something didn’t make it true. I was not welcome back, and instead was placed in an English class that my journalism teacher was teaching.

    To say her teaching style was different would be an understatement. She’d have us write poems in iambic pentameter one week, then make documentary films the next week. One week we had to read Hemingway out loud, and she’d make us reread the lines until everyone felt the words in their ears “like buttercups in your mouth and butterflies in your heart.” I found out that I loved poetry. Ms. Moo had a crazy cluttered office filled with books, and a crazy cluttered mind that made it difficult for her to remember names. But she could remember the names of all of her books, and knew exactly where each one was on the jumble of her bookshelves.

    One day she kept me after class, and I thought that I must be in some kind of trouble. I wasn’t though. She was holding my folder with assignments from the semester, and a handful of photocopies. The photocopies were pages from a book called Writer’s Market, and she wanted me to submit some of my poems to maybe be published. I could spend my lunch hours typing them up on her ancient typewriter if I wanted, and she’d help me with postage if I needed it.

    Well, my mom had a computer at home, but I didn’t tell her that. I typed those poems, submitted them, and even got a few published in literary magazines. I think she cried when I showed her. She certainly was more happy for me than my parents were.

    I don’t really write poems anymore and I haven’t thought about Miss Moo in a while. I suspect that she’d say that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something that gives you those butterflies in your heart. Lately I’ve been seeing butterflies everywhere and even put a butterfly sticker on my computer!
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