I’ve met so many people who’ve managed to make such an impact in my life – from Miss Chua, my soft-spoken 6th grade math teacher who helped me understand division, to Miss Tan, who with her bitter nature, taught me what not being among a teacher’s favorites felt like.
But there was one woman who changed the course of my life, and I’ll never forget her. Her name was Sister Gerry and she was the high school principal, and while she’s not exactly a teacher, she did something that for me makes her one of the most influential teachers in my life.
I was a sophomore in high school, the second time I was doing the sophomore year after I cleverly assumed that if I failed my classes, my mother would send me off to live with my father and there, I’d have another chance to start over. I’d experience bullying that previous year and all I wanted to do was to get out of that all-girls’ school and start over somewhere else. My home life wasn’t all wonderful either – my mother and I were simply not getting along.
But I was in for a shock, for my father didn’t want me. So I had to remain in the same school, and face the coming year as returning student – a failed student.
I began writing stories that year, and my new classmates loved my stories. They were titillating and involved hints at premarital sex (written by someone who never even had sex) and for 14-year olds in the 80’s that was quite a big deal. Even bigger when it was happening in an all-girls’ high school.
So when a teacher got a hold of a page of one of my “play” which happened to have such implied-sex scene, she was outraged. It didn’t help that my classmates found her reaction amusing. So she marched me to the principal’s office where Sister Gerry sent me to the counselor’s office first for some good ol’ counseling.
After that session, Sister Gerry came up with a nifty idea. She wasn’t going to report the incident to my mother. Instead, she pulled me out of Drama club that week, and personally marched me over to where the members of the Poetry Club were meeting and promptly introduced me as their new member. She figured if I was into writing that much, had garnered my own set of fans, then I should start writing – formally.
I hated being in that Poetry Club – until I wrote my first poem. Then I saw my poem published in the school paper. Then another and then another. Sometimes I look back and ask myself what would have happened if Sister Gerry hadn’t intervened and come up with that grand plan? Sure, I wrote then, but I wrote as a secret passion with no one teaching me the basics beyond punctuation, grammar and spelling. But when I found myself in the Poetry Club, suddenly I had focus. I had structure.
But most of all, I realized that someone had actually believed in me.