Who Taught You How to Write? The Edtech World Gives Thanks

Who Taught You How to Write? The Edtech World Gives Thanks


It’s pretty safe to say that here at EdSurge, we love to write. But we didn’t become writers through wishful thinking. Behind every good journalist are great teachers.

For this year’s Thanksgiving article, we took to the streets and the social media channels to ask: Who taught you how to write? Here’s what we learned.

We’re thankful for our K-12 teachers and how they’ve inspired our vocabularies and minds.

I’m thankful for my high school English teacher Herb Pagani, who taught me 1. Rules are meant to be broken and 2. Always write from the heart!

Susan Bearden, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy

I’d like to thank Harriet Clark, my high school English teacher/principal. She gave me opportunities to write what I was thinking and the guidance to make my words flow.

Rodney Turner, Educational Consultant

I remember it like it was yesterday. For the first time in my life, I got a C on an essay. Not even a C+—just a C. Mrs. Brady had been harsh in grading our first 9th grade 5-page essays. But despite the tears and frustrations during that cold November, she got me through that year more swiftly than any other writing teacher I’ve ever had. By the end of my 9th grade year, I could write a paper with confidence, and she was the main reason for it.
Mary Jo Madda, EdSurge

Dear Mrs. Noia: you taught me to diagram the logic of my thoughts and to use “on the other hand” only once. Forever grateful. — Regina Mullen, Attorney

Thank you to Brad Shurmantine who taught me to write when I was a high school student of his in the early 80's. One of my fondest memories is the struggle I had when analyzing "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop, and discovering through that process that the poem was joyful and spoke to my spirit. Also, Brad was encouraging and generous with feedback, and I still have papers and poems he returned to me with positive comments. He inspired in me a love for writing poetry, and found something affirming to say about even the worst of my teenage poems. The ability to interpret and analyze was valuable and practical, but the ability to really discover and learn something new while writing was a gift I am grateful for to this day. — Michelle Spencer, EdSurge

I started at Noble and Greenough School, as a Sophomore with numerous learning disabilities. My very first class was English with Dick Baker, ex Head of School and infamous around campus for his large workload. He walked into class and announced that “this would be a day we would always remember.” My first thought was this guy must be really good. It happened to be 9/11/01 and he was referring to the World Trade Center attack. That said, as a teacher he turned out to be that good. He is a teacher I will always remember. He spent hours throughout that year and throughout the rest of High School meeting with me before, during and after school, teaching me to find my voice, and teaching me to love to write despite how long it would take or how many edits I would need.—Helen Resor, EdSurge

Who taught me how to write? I could point to my mother, who taught me the ABCs, or Dr. Pohlmann, the AP English teacher who taught a very technical writing structure that I still use today. Really though, the ones who taught me how to write something that a stranger might actually be interested in reading are my editors here at EdSurge: Tony and Betsy. Thank you!
Brady Fukumoto, EdSurge

We’re thankful for our professors, who challenged our arguments and cured our leftover high school habits.

Dear Dr. Marilyn Fernandez: You taught me that less is more, just as long as my arguments are fully fleshed out. Your constructive criticism, patience, and insistence that I could always do better inspired me to broaden my thinking and to never settle for mediocre prose. Thank you.
Vanessa Bell, EdSurge

A chronic abuser of dangling modifiers during my teenage years, I am forever grateful to Professor Joseph Esherick for curing me of that rotten habit.
Tony Wan, EdSurge

I thought I was a strong writer heading into college but my intro to writing course my freshman year of college quickly showed me I had a lot of learning left to do. Professor Matthew Brim taught the class writing techniques I still use today and pushed us to infuse ourselves in our work. I was far from the best student in his class, but I left the class a stronger writer and it provided a foundation of comfort in developing my own voice and style.
Jin-Soo Huh, Alpha Public Schools

The French University system taught me how to write. I spent my senior year of college at the Université de Bordeaux III and it was transformational in me being able to write a proper essay. In France, students must follow a very structured format of stating a main thesis, making two major points and supporting them with 3 minor points each. How is it possible that I managed to get As and Bs in the previous 16 years of school with the meandering essays I turned in? Merci beaucoup aux professeurs de l’Université de Bordeaux!

Alice Myerhoff, EdSurge

Many thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Tuleja at the University of Notre Dame for asking more of me in my thinking and writing—to go beyond analysis and synthesize the obvious and not so obvious dots in my mind to contribute a new perspective to a subject.
Bobby Erzen, EdSurge

We’re thankful for our colleagues, leaders and bosses, who help keep our grammar in check.

We learn to write by reading great writing. Still there are a couple of people who made a huge difference for me: My 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Van Duran, edited everything we wrote, sentence by sentence, and gave me the gift of structure. My Washington Post editors taught me to look for the story and to polish (and repolish!) the nut graf until it glittered with sense. Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame) taught me to think about the reader every time I dare to write a sentence. And George Anders, my favorite writer, continues to urge me to brighten my prose with perky verbs and snappy insights.
Betsy Corcoran, EdSurge

Thank you Austin Long-Scott, journalism professor at SF State: “Just move to a part of the piece where you know what you will say.” Catherine Lucas for the rhetoric of the sentence and the writers Junot Diaz, Eduardo Galeano, Sandra Cisneros, Langston Hughes for forging my American identity.

Ricardo Elizalde, San Francisco Unified School District

We’re thankful for our parents, who have known us and guided our words from the start.

When I was in fifth grade, my parents bought me a box set of Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems on five or six CDs for doing well in school. I was captivated. I listened to every CD about a thousand times. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to write like him.

Blake Montgomery, EdSurge

I would like to thank my mother, Grace Blue for being my first teacher. I was especially blessed to have a mother as an educator who always encouraged me to write stories as a child, and explore my creativity. She continues to inspire me to share my voice, and through that voice empower others.
Patricia Brown, Ladue School District

Growing up, it was my dad who spent countless hours proofreading and refining the craft of my writing. His endless patience did not go unnoticed, and I’m thankful for his constant support every step of the way on this journey. Thanks for making me the writer I am today, dad!

Kayla Delzer, West Fargo Public Schools

I was the kid who got an “A,” and wondered whether the teacher had forgotten the “+.” The first time I wrote a five-paragraph essay, I followed the instructions exactly. I handed the draft to my dad and waited for praise. Instead, he gave me an over-the-glasses squint and had covered my carefully typed essay in red ink. I was blown away when he rattled off six different synonyms for overused words and talked about the cadence of sentences. That’s when I fell in love with the process of writing. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me how to write and for proofreading everything from term papers to resumes, especially some of those early drafts!
Allison McLaughlin, EdSurge

My dad (Joe Harris) is my personal & professional writing hero. He taught me that writing is a process and a practice, and to always be more precise when communicating ideas. It always unnerved me to show him my work for school, but I knew it would be better off in the long run. He’s largely shaped my own approach to teaching writing. Thanks, Dad!

Kate Harris, Smithsonian Learning Lab

I definitely learned to write from my mom, who is a retired middle school English teacher. She always had her students do fun, creative, writing assignments in her classes. They wrote to celebrities, designed shoes with mythological powers, and studied influential people to present a “wax museum” for parents.

Kyle Place, Lee’s Summit School District

I’m thankful to my mother Diana Larson, who taught me to physically write. She helped me with homework and helped me to see the need for neat penmanship. She has always written in cursive and one day I hope to have as nice of writing as she has. Thanks Mom, I love you!

Derek Larson, Washington County School District

I learned how to write from many people and books, but my Dad was most influential. No matter what I wrote in school—even if it received a good grade—he would tear it up and show me how to make it better. He was relentless; I am lucky to have had him. Another key lesson in writing came from time at the Yale Daily News, where I wrote a lot and learned a lot from my colleagues Michael Barbaro and Charles Forelle, now at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, respectively.
Michael Horn, formerly of Clayton Christensen Institute

And last but not least, we’re thankful for students, who teach us more about writing than we teach them.

Regarding my growth as an author, I have to thank my second grade students. Learning how to teach writing totally transformed the way I myself understand writing. After spending one summer at the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing project I came back armed with new ways to think about writing, and to help my student’s grow as authors. As they came to believe of themselves as authors, it reignited my passion for writing. Watching them come to understand craft, narrative, word choice and using mentor texts made me realize how powerful this medium can be for expressing yourself and continuously learning.

Molly Levitt, EdSurge

Who are you thanking this Thanksgiving?

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