The Bane of Balmeo's Existence: A column about a teacher who uses words to change lives.

April 2, 2010
By Kanwalroop Singh BRONZE, Milpitas, California
Kanwalroop Singh BRONZE, Milpitas, California
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

English teacher, Michelle Balmeo is always moving. She traipses up and down rows, back and forth in front of the room, circles around desks as she navigates her way through the intellectual bramble of writing advice. She spouts examples as if they were all written on the back of her hand, she projects but she never yells, she whispers but you can always hear her, and sometimes she sets up camp behind specific people and pats them on the head. She is everywhere at once--behind you, in front of you--wait! You just saw her! But where did she go?

She flits around the classroom like a hummingbird on steroids. Witnessing one hour of Balmeo at peak energy, makes you want to be passionate, makes you want to be active, makes you want to witness more. And this is precisely how she ensnares you in her spidery web of hard work, curiosity, and thought—at least that's how she ensnared me.

But I am of no real consequence: just one of many students who sat at the back of her Writing For Publication class and learned how to read and write and think and accomplish. She unlocked worlds for me: worlds of Dave Barries, Atlantic Monthlies, telling details, and poetry that slams. No class I had ever had before made me want to write as much as Writing for Publication did.

Read the walls. Play hooky. Hang out at bars. She told me. But being curious is difficult and annoying. Except when someone teaches you that stories don't only exist in the Wizarding World, or Middle Earth, or in the depths of a bound book. They surround you like snow in a snow globe, you just have to shake things up a little to see them.

Balmeo showed me that. She told me that you can't place a value on a story, just like you can't place a value on your love for something. She understands because she lives it everyday, in the way she lectures, teaches, and acts. She breathes passion like its pure undiluted oxygen.

Many things are uncertain. But one thing is not. I will pursue my passions: writing and storytelling, because that is what Balmeo has shown me, along with curiosity, hard work, thought and many things in between—like how to publicize for an event (balloons and promotional videos needed), how to handle a newly hired literary magazine staff, and how to "get the name of the dog".

Life is a short work. And in short works, I do not waste a syllable. So this is why Balmeo is an educator of the year: she taught me what I love and she knows more about living and sharing the dream than anyone else I know.

The author's comments:
Michelle Balmeo is a jounalism, english, and writing teacher at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, CA. I have been her student for three years and I feel there is no better way to honor her than by writing—that way I can give back some of what she gave me.

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