The first teacher who believed in me

I’ve said before that it was my grandmother’s insistence and constant pushing that got me to finally start writing, and to pursue it “for real.” And that is very true. But there have been other inspiring people along the way who helped me get where I am today. I don’t always remember their names, and sometimes the form their inspiration took isn’t one that most people would consider inspiring  (telling me I couldn’t do it, for example).

But there’s one person, aside from my grandmother and other family, who stands out in my memory as playing a role in where I am now.  Her name was Mrs. Fulmer, and she was my 7th grade language arts teacher. A short, dark haired woman with a big smile and lots of humor, she was also quite honest with her criticism of our work.

That honesty is why it meant a lot to me when she submitted my writing from an assignment to be included in a district-wide anthology. I was not then only student whose work she submitted, of course – there were 4 or 5 of us, as I recall. We go to leave school for a day to go to the grounds of a summer camp and attend a Young Writer’s Conference. We got to listen to some professional authors talk about writing, do some writing assignments while we were there and wander the beautiful landscape of the summer camp. It was a really great experience – and not just because we got out of school for the day. 😀

Anyway, our work was published in this anthology, our handwritten papers copied and put into the bound book in our handwriting. I still have that book somewhere, and it’s really interesting sometimes to look back at my handwriting (which was really awful at the time; it got better later, but trust me, you’re grateful I type everything now!) and that of my fellow classmates. The optimism in our words, the excitement and enthusiasm in our writing and our young hearts.

I went back and saw Mrs. Fulmer a few years after I graduated high school. I hadn’t yet had my kids. I just happened to drive by the school one day and thought I’d stop in. I honestly didn’t think she’d even still be teaching there, but she was. I had the opportunity to talk to her class. I told them about that anthology and the camp experience, and that they should appreciate the awesome teacher they had. I don’t know that my words had any impact on them, but who knows?

I wish I could go back now, and talk to her again. I’d love to be able to tell her I’m published now. Unfortunately, now she really doesn’t teach there any longer. I did a very basic search to try to find her, using the usual methods (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) but apparently she either chooses not to use them or didn’t list that particular school so I haven’t found her.

But I remember her, because for as much as my grandmother pushed and insisted, she is still my grandmother. And because she’s my grandmother, of course I think she tends to be a bit biased in her opinion of me. Mrs. Fulmer was the first objective reader to have such confidence in my abilities, to believe so strongly in me. She was someone who not only didn’t have to tell me my writing was good if it wasn’t, but had a duty to tell me it sucked and how I could improve it. That was how I knew that what I was doing must be good: if it wasn’t, it was her job to tell me so I could make it better.

I haven’t seen that teacher in at least 13 years, and I haven’t been in her class in at least 20 years. But I still remember her, and I remember what she did. Submitting my work for that anthology built up my confidence in ways I could never express.

I just hope that maybe she remembers my name and if she sees my books somewhere, she smile and pick them up because she remembers when I was her student. She can read them and take pride in the knowledge that she played a role in the fact that those books are out there.

Thank you, Mrs. Fulmer. You’ll never know just how much you meant to me.