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Dr. Heather Held, English MAG
“Do we just sit anywhere?” I asked with the nervousness of a student on the first day of school.
“What? Yeah, I don't care where you sit. I don't do assigned seating,” she answered without looking up. She was digging through her desk with fierce concentration, hunched over until she triumphantly held up a stack of syllabuses to hand out.
This was the only introduction I had to my sophomore English teacher, Heather Held. The minute the bell rang to start class, she plunked herself onto a stool in the front and began speaking as though we had known each other for years.
Her class was one of the most interesting, fast-paced, and worthwhile classes of my high school career. She was the only English teacher I felt truly improved my writing. We came to dread her purple pen, slashing “fluff” from our papers and making scathing notes in the margins about needing to go “more in-depth here!”
“Come on, you need to really feel it!” she would tell us. “I know you don't like the book, but everyone can relate to something or someone in the text. Don't be afraid to look a little deeper.”
As the year progressed, I found my papers had fewer purple marks. I began to gain confidence in my writing, taking her criticism to heart. She became such an influence on my writing that I strived to impress her with both my essays and the poetry I wrote in my free time – praise from her on a stanza was like 10 compliments from my peers.
I began to see her after class, first to talk about my writing, and then just to talk about life. Toward the end of the year, she began questioning my plans for college. When I told her I would be majoring in journalism, she said, “No, you won't. You're going to be an English teacher.”
I scoffed at her – me, a teacher? But she remained convinced. No matter how often I told her that journalism was where my heart lay, she shook her head and smiled.
One day during junior year, I had a revelation. Held was right – teaching English might be what I was meant to do. Journalism had lost its charm and Held's knowing smile stood in the back of my mind. I went to visit her later that day and told her I thought she was right about my future.
“Oh, I know,” she told me, smiling.
Heather Held remains one of my most influential high school teachers. She taught me how to see books as stories of real people rather than words on a page. She showed me that teachers really do care about their students as people, not just as babysitting charges. She reshaped every belief I had about my writing, and taught me how to build a strong foundation so that I could go on and become the writer I dreamed of.