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Kristin Zerbe, English Teacher, John Dickinson High This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


I've never really had an interest in English class. Reading old stories, writing long essays, and analyzing poetry brought me nothing but major boredom and failing grades. But Mrs. Zerbe's class was the complete opposite for me.

Her style of teaching has motivated me to exceed expectations, no matter what they might be. The prompts my other teachers assigned were always boring and extremely precise on what we had to write about, so I usually refused to do the essays. However, I've written at least four this year and enjoyed all of them.

Mrs. Zerbe gives us the opportunity to write about whatever we want as long as it relates somehow to one of the four broad ideas we have to choose from. Technically our pieces only have to be 21 sentences, but I always have more to say, and usually write two or three times that. I never thought writing would give me so much enjoyment. More freedom may help me get the assignments done, but it's not the only thing that motivates me. There's something about Mrs. Zerbe that seems to pull the effort out of me.

Every month our class has a recognition for “Student of the Month.” Before announcing the name, Mrs. Zerbe always gives a description of why he or she was chosen. This month's student was described as “always displaying a positive attitude, very respectful, puts extreme effort into all of his work, doesn't talk much in class but is one of my favorite students to talk to, and is just an excellent role model of a good student.” Then I heard my name! At that moment I felt special and accomplished for once in my life. Getting an award in a class I struggle the most in just blew me away. More importantly – well, to me anyway – was that a teacher didn't mind talking to me, and I was one of her favorites!

In the past I always felt like a bother when I stayed after class to ask a question or explain my reasons for being absent or not getting my work done. At my other school the teachers wouldn't even look at me. They would just continue fooling with their computers and paperwork as I tried to talk to them, then they would seem irritated that I appeared to be making up excuses.

Mrs. Zerbe understands my situation and gives me advice. Also if I'm collecting make-up work, she actually takes time to explain how to do it. School has always been stressful for me since all my previous teachers preferred to fail me for being absent rather than try to help me catch up. So I consider myself lucky to have a teacher who actually cares.

Although make-up work helps me catch up, it's not going to read me the story that the class read together while I was out. Fortunately I manage to pass the tests anyway. How? Because Mrs. Zerbe always has class discussions about stories, analyzing everything that goes on in the reading in a way that everyone understands. She breaks it down enough that I don't have to go back and read it myself. For example, in seventh grade my class read “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. I had no clue what was happening in the poem, and I failed the test. Reading it in class this year, however, I was able to picture it like a movie in my head, and got the highest grade on the test.

I'm not sure if she's aware of this, but Mrs. Zerbe is one of the best teachers I've ever had. In my book, getting me to turn in any type of writing assignment or find enjoyment in a poem is mission impossible, but she manages to do it. Not to mention, what was my least favorite class is now the one I can't wait to attend. Her rules on respect keep the class in order, so I learn better. Above all, the understanding and advice she provides make me feel like an individual, not just a number on her list of students.

Just knowing that someone is willing to take time to listen to what I have to say has helped me significantly. Having a teacher who actually seems to care makes coming to school far less painful. She motivates me to do my best and respect her. Receiving an award in her class has given me a sense of pride and accomplishment. Mrs. Zerbe has given me the strength and support to be a better student in all ways. Without a doubt, she is my choice for Teen Ink's Educator of the Year.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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iluvbieber16 said...
Feb. 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm:
This is the best article I have ever read that was not written about Justin Bieber.  <3
 
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