I was thinking today about my English teacher from high school. She, I think, was the coolest teacher I ever had. She made learning fun. We read Shakespeare in high school. Now for the average young teenager, Shakespeare is no where near the top of any reading list, if there absolutely has to be one. But she actually made it interesting. She would give us the play version. Then students were assigned parts to read. One might be Othello, one might be Iago, one might be Hamlet and so forth. THEN, if the weather was nice, we would go outside on the lawn to read the play whilst sitting on blankets. But not by any ordinary means. We would, instead of using the conventional door, exit through her classroom window. AND THAT'S NOT ALL....after simply reading the play, we would then take an excerpt from the play, put on make-shift costumes, go to the auditorium and act out the play...on film.
Sometimes she would let us order burgers and fries from Keech's Grill just down the road from the school. Instead of the regular school lunch of vegetable beef soup from a giant can we would eat unhealtily in her classroom. She had a giant inflatable gorilla that sat in the corner of the classroom. She had a little bear on a unicycle that would ride a string across the ceiling. Instead of student desks we had dinner style tables with students facing each other. We had REAL round table discussions. And we could write anything (but perverse) things on the table with markers. When the table was full, we'd paint it and start over. She pushed her books and things up and down the halls in a grocery buggy. To say the least, Mrs. Annie Cutler was the most amazing teacher I ever had. And I spent six years in college.
However, she was NOT an easy teacher. Her tests were often open-ended questions that required a paragraph or two. And they often were detailed enough that you had to do some major thinking and material recall to answer correctly. But in the end it was all worth all the work. When we had papers to write with a certain word count, we were not allowed to count words such as a, and, the, but, nor, for, and so. We were also required to keep a journal that we had to write in at least three times a week. We could write about anything we wanted to with the understanding that she would be reading and grading what we wrote. It was really a way to get good grades to counter act her often difficult tests. I once wrote an entire page using all the words I was not allowed to count in my papers. I got an A for originality. Really.
I was scanning the net looking for information on her. I found a site called "Rate My Teacher". Ratings were from one to five with one being bad and five being great. For easiness her rating was a 2.7. As I said before, she wasn't easy, but she was fun. But for helpfulness and clarity she had gotten 5.0 in both categories. Here is a quote I found about her on the same site.
"She has PASSION and instills it in us for learning. She uses learning styles to the advantage of ALL!"
She also hosted parties at her home for her students. Not the crazy-go-get-drunk-teenager type parties. She'd grill hot dogs and hamburgers. Each student would bring a side, a drink, or a dessert. And on occasion we'd roast marshmallows over a camp fire. She had her bathroom painted to look like meadow with a white picket fence around the wall and a tree painted up the wall and branches extended across the ceiling. Many thought she wore the same clothes every day. But that wasn't the case. She would find a shirt or skirt she liked on sale and would buy 5 or 6 of the exact same thing. I know this for a fact, as she brought her students into her room to have a look in her closet!
I had heard that she had passed away. To my extreme dismay I found her obituary on line. I'm not sure what the cause was, but she passed away on March 7, 2009 at the age of sixty-three. That's not the sort of news you want to hear about a hero. Mrs. Annie Cutler was a great teacher and an amazing person. I'll never forget her khaki skirts with blue or pink blouses and the signature sweater tied around her shoulders. And for whatever reason I was thinking of her today, I thought it would be a great tribute to memorialize her in a blog post. Teachers are wonderful resources that carry on throughout our lives. I think that the get far too little credit (and pay) for all they do for us and our children. SO........
THANK YOU MRS. ANNIE CUTLER