Mrs. Mink was my senior English teacher. I was a tad bitter at my placement in her class; my junior English teacher refused to recommend me for AP Lit because of my “attitude problem,” (I once called him out during a class discussion in which he bashed music, and I didn’t read any of the books but still managed an A) so I was in a regular English class while my boyfriend got to take AP Lit.
But English with Mrs. Mink ended up being one of those experiences that changed my life. We read Hamlet and Lord of the Flies. Our research papers took the form of a letter, 10 years in the future, and we had to research what we thought our lives would be like (that’s a fun little trip down memory lane to read…and yes I still have it). And once, she let us choose books.
We could choose from The Color Purple, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange, and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Take a second to process those titles. Not for the faint of heart (and not taught in many public schools).
I picked The Handmaid’s Tale, and as part of the assignment, I had to keep a lit journal where I wrote observations about the book. Once a week, Mrs. Mink would collect them, and she actually wrote back to us.
I don’t recall what exactly I wrote about, but at one point I included, “I think I’m turning into an English teacher–looking for symbolism on every page! Oh no!”
Her response? “I think you’d actually make quite a good English teacher. You have a smart mind and are a good writer.”
I wish I could track her down and tell her how important those words have been to me the past 22 years. When a double major in vocal and piano performance was no longer wise for me to pursue, I turned to English because of her words. When I would get drafts of papers back, dripping in red ink, her words reminded me to just try harder.
So today I’m grateful for Mrs. Mink–a teacher who took a flippant remark from a snotty 17 year-old and turned it into a lifeline.