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Debra Johnson-Dahrouge, Composition, Neptune High This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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English was always easy for me, but that changed the first day I walked into Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge's class. I'd heard rumors from former students: they said she was strict and intimidating, that her class was impossible to pass, and that I was insane for even wanting to take it. Consequently I was extremely nervous.

On that first day of school, Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge stood in the front of her classroom, smiling, while she waited for the class to settle down. Her long, curly, red hair and clear blue eyes made her seem very full of life. You could tell she had so much knowledge that it just wanted to pour out and spill all over the floor.

“This is Advanced Placement Language and Composition,” she said. “I am not exaggerating when I say that this class will be difficult, but if you trust me, I'll guide you. Everything you do in this class matters.”

Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge had my attention, and she did not lose it the entire period. She explained that her grading system was different from what we were used to, and told us to forget about the grades that we used to get, because we probably would not see those soon. She said that our writing would improve as we understood the new “tools” she would give us.

“Writing is an art,” she said. “You can't just put words on a piece of paper and slap your name on top of it. What you put your name on is out there to be judged.”

I had never thought about it that way. Every time I rushed to finish an essay and wrote my name on top, it was still my writing; my words, out there for everyone to read. I realized that if I wanted to be a good writer, I needed to remember that writing really is an art, and that it may take a long time to perfect.

Even though I thought that I was doing fine in her class, Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge intimidated me; I was afraid of what she would say if I asked a question. My writing reflected my poor participation, and when I got my essay back, my grade was terrible. I needed help, but I refused to admit it. I was very frustrated with Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge. I despised going to class, and I hated that I was getting bad grades because I was second-guessing myself. I wondered why she didn't tell me how poorly I was doing. That was when I realized it wasn't her job to come to me. It was mine to go to her.

I had a new purpose: I needed to find out what I could do to improve my grade and how to use the “tools” in my writing. I still couldn't talk to Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge in person, so I e-mailed. In this way, she and I worked together to improve my writing. She walked me through every step to understand how to write an essay, and together, we saw improvement in my work. I even discovered that asking for help could actually work. The more I talked to her, and the more she tutored me, the more I recognized that she really is a great teacher. I know now that if I had never gone to her for help, I never would have realized that behind everything she was saying, there was a teacher who actually cared about me.

Now I'm able to ask Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge for help, both online and in person. My writing is improving and I am absorbing everything she says in class. At the beginning of the year, she told us that she needed to knock us down so we could climb back up stronger. She waved my low grades in my face, and I woke up. Then we worked to change everything. She's promised to help me with whatever I need, and by the end of the year she will have taught me exactly what I'll need for college. Not only is Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge one of the best English teachers I have ever had, she is the only one that has ever cared about where I will be in the future.

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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This article has 29 comments. Post your own!

KatsKThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 9, 2012 at 11:58 am:
This reminds me of my sixth grade physics teacher. A similar story. However, she left my school last year to go to a high school, which I will be attending next year. In the future, I hope to nominate her as teacher of the year.
 
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chaseboy said...
Nov. 9, 2010 at 11:42 am:
good job your a great writer
 
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jayjay1212 said...
May 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm:
GREAT JOB MORGAN = )
 
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MacHappy said...
Jan. 29, 2009 at 1:40 am:
Very nicely written. I enjoyed reading it and remembering how much i hated HS English but i still quote my english teacher to this day.
 
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mm1115 said...
Jan. 20, 2009 at 10:47 pm:
This was a very well written essay. There are not many teachers who really take the time to be real teachers and put it out there for the students to grasp. Thank you Mrs D.J. fot your courage and your strengh. It is also wonderful to see a student absorb the knowledge that this educator has to offer. I commend you both.
 
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Diane M. B. said...
Jan. 20, 2009 at 12:32 am:
Great! I will have my teenage daughter read it. I hope it
inspires her because she is intimidated by physics and the
teacher! Hats off to you Morgan for being assertive enough
to take steps to solve the problem.
 
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JohnWilliams2 said...
Jan. 19, 2009 at 6:23 am:
Dear Morgan, I commend you for expressing your emotions about your English teacher to the internet world, however I must disagree with your stylistic elements. Your tenses are not consistent throughout the essay and your words are not colorful enough. Paragraph seven does not have one main idea, so it was confusing. Also, I think you need to rethink your audience. Keep trying. I'm sure this teacher will help you figure out where to go with your writing. Good luck in the future.
 
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Dancer91392 said...
Jan. 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm:
your artical was awesome.... she is an amazing teacher with a heart of gold.
 
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j228 said...
Jan. 18, 2009 at 4:26 pm:
What a great commendation to a teacher from a current student.
It took me many years later to fully appreciate a great English teacher I had in high school.
 
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cp45 said...
Jan. 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm:
Your essay shows how great of an impact a caring educator can make on one's life. There ARE teachers who are sincere in their profession! Please check over to correct some verb tenses, (i.e., present tense
 
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pre k teach said...
Jan. 17, 2009 at 12:33 am:
Reminds me of my years in high school. Teachers challenged students. Keep challenging yourself, Morgan.
 
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jel said...
Jan. 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm:
Great essay, you really are learning
 
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judrus said...
Jan. 16, 2009 at 12:43 pm:
Essay was well written and easy to read and follow along woth . I never had a role model like Mrs D nor did my children, so it very heatwarming to hear about such positive teacher role model . We need more like her to inspire students to become their best . Congratulations Morgan, for continuing to strive to reach your goals.
 
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shimmy492 said...
Jan. 16, 2009 at 1:29 am:
thanks for the feedback everyone.
it's my first essay entry, and I appreciate the suggestions.

-morgan
 
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lm5590 said...
Jan. 16, 2009 at 12:35 am:
Its great that theres still teachers who are challenging, as well as students willing to accept those challenges.
 
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Kathy G said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm:
I thought it was a wonderful article and a nice tribute to the teacher from a student who really wants to learn.
 
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Puddles :) said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 6:28 pm:
I think who ever wrote this did an excellent job. It is honest and well written. This teacher and student both sound like amazing people. Need more students and teachers like this!!!
 
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Vera said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 5:27 pm:
I enjoyed reading this essay. I would recommend checking your tenses and punctuation, though. There are a few obvious inconsistencies here.
 
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susie140 said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 3:55 pm:
It's great to hear that there are students who work hard
 
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Janice, Knoxville,TN said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm:
This was an interesting atricle and took me back to high school for a minute. I question the use of Mrs. Dahrouge and then Mrs. Johnson Dahrouge. It confused me. Overall, well written and an inspiation to teachers and students.
 
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