Profiles in Greatness Ep. 6
We like to stratify, don't we. We have great, but who is the greatest? Today's profile in greatness will discuss the greatest teacher of my pre-college years. And there isn't a doubt that she is on par with my three greatest college professors.
Mrs. Traut (Grade 11 English)
When I turned in the essay for our summer readings of The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men, there was no doubt in my mind I had done well. When hadn't I earned an A or B on an English essay.
When I received the essay back from Ms. Traut, there was little doubt in my mind that she had not been fair with the assigned grade--D. Big and red, that letter nearly shattered my confidence. At the time, and perhaps they still do, the high school tracked students by academic levels. I had begun my high school career in Level 2 English, only to be moved up to Level 1 for sophomore year. It came easy. But I always wondered whether I belonged there.
Ms. Traut sat patiently with me as I asked questions. She took the time, endless in my mind, to explore my writing and where the breakdown of my logic happened and where my writing structure also broke down. Instead of leaving that room shattered, Ms. Traut gave me hope that I would find success in her class.
Anyone who took Ms. Traut's class will remember her as precise, dryly witty, and always in control. Whether she was running the Bergen Evans Vocabulary filmstrip, or allowing us to explore ways to market the transcendentalist beliefs of Thoreau, Ms. Traut had us in her sights. She encouraged risk. She rewarded excellence. And she loved language and literature.
Only Ms. Traut could have made sentence diagramming enjoyable. Because she loved precision in language, she convinced us to buy into seeing how words connected, worked together, to create meaning. Two years later, as a college freshmen enrolled in the honors English program, those lessons, that passion, propelled me to find that same precision. Ms. Traut had prepared me for college success--the end result of a proper secondary education.
Ms. Traut also fostered my love of literature. Her ability to bring me into the fantasy of Gatsby, the shame of Prynne, the capriciousness of Thoreau showed me that reading, more than anything else, has the power to show us something of who we all are.
If I am ever half the teacher that Ms. Traut was, I believe students will remember as great. Thank you, Ms. Traut for your precision, your wit, and your passion. You were the greatest teacher of my public school career.