The Marvelous Mr. Tatnall This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 26, 2014
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Ward Tatnall
English Department Chair
West Nottingham Academy

The big, burly man gingerly rises from his wheelchair into a standing position, with the help of his trusty crutches. Hairline receding and eyes glazed over, he does his best to smile for the camera.
When the photographer signals that she is done with him, he slumps back down into his wheelchair and wheels himself back to his classroom. It is 11:00AM, and the day has only just begun.
He checks his email and finds that two students have sent him their essays. He eagerly opens the two documents, only to find that both students have cited their sources wrong. He groans in disapproval, wondering how two of his students could have made such a critical error- after all, his students are 2/3 through their junior year.
But, when I open the door, all signs of sadness disappear. I ask him how he is doing, to which he replies "fine." (The same response he gives every day). He then asks me how I have been, to which I reply "Great, sir". He proceeds to talk about how deplorable yesterday's lunch was: "the steak was tough and chewy; the rice was undercooked". I nod my head in agreement.
The next day, I eagerly enter his classroom, excited for whatever lesson he has planned for us today. Everyone in my class listens intently as he describes how different West Nottingham used to be- the library used to be a dorm, the cafeteria used to be in the headmaster's house, etc. He then ventures on to telling us how lucky we are to go to a good school filled with good, hardworking students.
When the time comes for learning however, he knows how to get the job done. He uses intellectual banter and frequent allusions to subjects we all are familiar with, transforming a group of students obsessed with World of Warcraft into Shakespearean scholars.
He is an exceptionally hard grader. Essays that would have gotten A's the year before are now B's and C's. Speeches that last year's teachers would have passed- are now considered failing. He probably gives out A+'s about as frequently as solar eclipses.
I admire his strict grading standards. His refusal to award grades signifying perfection motivates students like myself to try harder and harder. In his class, being smart is not enough. You must read every book he assigns, study like crazy for every quiz and have your essay proofread by the entire school- if you wish to get one of those coveted “A’s”.
One thing that you will not find in his class is dull moments. Even the most boring of books has to be humorous in some way- or so he says. Yesterday it was a joke about ridiculous baby names; today the joke is about how little there is to do in Chambersburg, PA. These jokes, though occasionally off-topic, stimulate the creative juices inside each and every one of his students.
Underneath the alternative exterior, lies a kind-hearted fellow. He is always willing to talk to you about whatever issues are on your mind. The advice he gives to students is both candid and thoughtful; he is preparing students not only to pass his class, but for whatever lies ahead.
His harsh critiquing, rousing speeches, and calming demeanor combine to make him the wonderful person he is. He is able to use his God-given speaking and writing abilities to enrich the lives my classmates and myself. A great teacher, scholar, and friend, I can think of no one more deserving of Teen Ink's "Educator of the Year" award than Mr.Tatnall.

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