Paul McDevitt: My high school English teacher, Mr. Neal, who I just saw at my high school reunion, and he looked exactly the same — at least from the neck up. He scared me — I shouldn’t say that. He had reasonable but high expectations. He had a way of really pushing you, mostly in my writing. If fact, he inspired me to pick English as my minor. He realized that I could write pretty well, and he pointed that out. You wouldn’t know it with all the red all over the paper, but in there was talent.
Elaine Lynch: My first-grade teacher, Mrs. McCumber. I remember thinking in first grade I was going to “Mrs. Cucumber.” She was very kind and sweet, but she also had high expectations. I remember thinking, “When I grow up, I want to be like her.” She instilled in me a love for learning and a love for reading, and sharing that love with others. She taught me how to read. And she inspired us to choose books that were our favorites and share them with the class. So that love of sharing came from her.
What was an especially rewarding experience for you as a teacher?
Paul McDevitt: Two years ago, I started teaching at a parochial school and went back to visit the principal who was retiring. She was a very popular nun, and the line was out the door to bid her farewell. And in that line were several previous students of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. One of them had been particularly challenging. She was that one who made the day a little longer.
But she had matured. She said she was going back to school to become a high school teacher. And she said I had inspired her to do that. And this is a girl who I never really would have thought, at all, would have been — it was just a real turnaround. It was a neat thing to hear.