Maggie Robinson


May 5
2007
Under the Influence

My friend Ginny in Connecticut called me a while back. We’ve known each other since we played fifth stand cello in the orchestra in our freshman year of high school (yes, there were eight cellists more proficient than we were). Ginny went on with the cello and wound up at first stand, but I stopped when I got tired of walking a mile to school with the big brown bag. Plus, it’s really hard to play the cello in a tight skirt.

We talked about a great many things for too long a time on Ginny’s dime, like how we once got drunk on Manischewitz wine at a sleepover. We discovered we had both been independently and recently thinking about our Senior English teacher, Ida Beth Newlon. Miss Newlon was quiet yet firm, and encouraged her students to read, write and think. She picked me to work on the literary magazine. She was the first teacher I had in four years of high school who I felt really, truly cared about me. She told me I had “spark” and I believed her.

It’s taken a while for the spark to ignite a fire, but I credit Miss Newlon for having confidence in me as a writer so many years ago. I expect by now Miss Newlon is somewhere in English Teacher Heaven, where all the red pencils are sharp, yet there are no mistakes to correct. So, thank you again, Miss Newlon. I’m glad I thanked you way back then, and Ginny and I have not forgotten you now that we are older than you were when you taught us.

And, Ginny? I told you you’d be in my blog. Thank you for being my friend and a great teacher. You, too, Claudia.

Do you have a mentor who’s meant a lot to you? A pal you’ve played with for ages? Feel free to acknowledge them here.

May 6-12 is Teacher Appreciation Week, so go appreciate somebody!

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. ~Henry Brooks Adams

15 comments to “Under the Influence”

  1. lacey kaye
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     · May 5th, 2007 at 2:41 pm · Link

    My 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Blanchard. She convinced me to write (even if it took several years for me to get everything in order so I could). When I get published, I want her to have a copy, even if I have to buy it myself!



  2. beverley
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     · May 6th, 2007 at 11:06 pm · Link

    My ninth grade History teacher taught in such a way I actually started to love history (and never had before) and my tenth grade English teach Mrs. Corrigan. I already loved English by then (I was determined I’d one day be a romance writer). Thank you ladies, now I’m writing historical romances. 🙂



  3. terrio
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     · May 7th, 2007 at 9:14 am · Link

    Sr. Eleanor is probably the teacher I remember the most. She was my freshman and senior year English teacher. Every paper we wrote had to be double spaced so she could make corrections and she would continue to give it back for re-writes until it was better. I guess you could say she was my first critique partner. *g*



  4. Tessa Dare
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     · May 7th, 2007 at 3:09 pm · Link

    My 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Marshall, encouraged all her students to write. We made “books” at the end of the year with all our collected poems and stories. She took some of us to a special writing conference for kids and teens. That was the year I wanted to be a writer.

    Then I moved, and at my new school the English teachers did nothing but drill us in grammar and punctuation. Grrr. I came out of that year thinking I’d be a doctor. Heh.

    Yay for teachers! My parents are teachers.



  5. India Carolina
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     · May 7th, 2007 at 6:01 pm · Link

    Okay, my mentor, my teacher, my mom.

    She was a third grade teacher with a huge heart. She was one of the first teachers in the head start program and she generally taught in low-income areas. Every year, each class held a drawing to give away a christmas tree.
    One year, my mom hauled me down to pick out a tree and deliver it to the family of a child in her class who hadn’t won the drawing, but wanted that tree badly enough to scrawl “Tree” (in his newly aquired third grade cursive) on the blank scrap of paper he’d drawn.

    How inspiring–both my mom, and the boy who didn’t let a blank piece of paper stand in the way of his dream.



  6. Ericka Scott
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     · May 7th, 2007 at 10:48 pm · Link

    My seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Lincoln McGurk. I often wonder where he is these days. . . I wish him well.



  7. ERiCA
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     · May 8th, 2007 at 12:01 am · Link

    Here’s a shout-out to my best friend Carrie F, whom I’ve known since 7th grade lo those many moons ago, and who also happens to be a teacher. Also a big thank you to Timi Sheline, whom I fell out of contact with more than a decade ago, but who was my high school English teacher and whom I absolutely adored. She encouraged me at a time when I needed it the most and I think of her often!



  8. Henri de Montmorency
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     · May 8th, 2007 at 7:46 pm · Link

    It’s been too long to remember any mentor. Over 300 years. But, if I had to dig deep into my memory banks, it would have to be Louise Bourgeois. She taught me everything I needed to know.



  9. MsHellion
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     · May 9th, 2007 at 1:34 pm · Link

    I have LOTS of mentors. Because I have to be told multiple times.

    5th grade: Ms. Proctor. Her journal writing weekly activity convinced me that writing was the bomb. I thought, it must be the coolest thing to be a writer.

    11th grade: Ms. Yount. She convinced me to submit an essay for a contest–and after much Comedy of Errors, I won. She also told me to never become a teacher because it wasn’t worth it. I owe Ms. Yount A LOT.

    Dr. Alioto: history professor in college…who once wrote on one of my papers “almost as good as something I wrote”. Yes, thanks.

    Dr. Jack Batterson: history professor–who told me he hoped I’d go to grad school in history because he liked my writing so much.

    Dr. Terri Lass: English professor, who once read one of my papers aloud to the class because he liked it so much–even though he despaired openly I would ever publish anything worth reading since I only wanted to write romance novels.



  10. TiffinaC
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     · May 9th, 2007 at 7:42 pm · Link

    Damn…Thank yous and I suck at remembering names! Okay my grade one teacher who went above and beyond and truly loved rearing evil little six year olds, miss. Marlowe…then my music teachers in highschool..I think one was named mr. ward…he understood my passion for music and tried to help me (or push me) on the right path of becoming a musician…it’s a shame my parents never saw it that way…oh well…my clarinet days are over 🙁



  11. Sara Lindsey
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     · May 10th, 2007 at 2:49 am · Link

    Mrs. Gitlin – My kindgergarden teacher who taught me to read. It was the best present I ever received.

    Mrs. Russell – My sixth grade teacher who taught me that history was just one big adventure tale. You told us fabulous stories, had us keep daily journals and encouraged us to imagine. You thought that some day I’d be a writer. You were right. May the Force be with you, wherever you are!



  12. Maggie Robinson
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     · May 10th, 2007 at 7:02 am · Link

    Thank you all for sharing your top teachers. I hope somehow they are feeling the love. I was reminded that I loved Mrs. Grant, too, my freshman art teacher, who died of breast cancer the year after I had her. She had us do a still life and encouraged us to see colors that weren’t even there. It was my first foray into unreality and I never came back.



  13. Janga
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     · May 10th, 2007 at 1:14 pm · Link

    I had some wonderful teachers from elementary through grad school. Miss Duncan, my sixth grade teacher who praised my poems and told me to keep writing them is the one I owe the biggest debt to. But it also seems appropriate on this Thursday before Mother’s Day to say that my first and best teacher was my mother. All the best parts of who I am, including my love of reading, stem directly from what she taught me.



  14. elyssany
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     · May 12th, 2007 at 3:16 am · Link

    I love the blog, Maggie.

    I also have a lot of teachers, too b/c like Hellion I’m too stubborn to listen to it the first time. lol

    3rd grade: Mrs. Haggerty, tough but fair. And she liked popcorn a lot.

    11th grade: Mr. Farnan, Honors English – he was just awesome and loved Shakespeare.

    College, junior & senior year: Will Marquess, Peter Harrigan, Nat Lewis, and Carey Kaplan – teachers who saw me.

    My friend at work: Ward Dales – who’s always there for me and is a great friend.



  15. Ken Perlow
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     · June 25th, 2011 at 8:16 pm · Link

    Fast-forward 4 years, if anybody’s still around. Don’t know why I just googled “Ida Beth Newlon” but she was my senior HS English teacher too, and I often wonder what became of her–it had to be tough to be a lesbian working in public schools in those days. I can’t place you, but I remember who both Ginny and Claudia are (I used to think eidetic memory a curse, but now I take satisfaction that I’m still compos mentis); I was the pipsqueak but hotshot freshman oboist when you were seniors. That was one amazing orchestra, wasn’t it?