Hi, readers! National Teacher Day is celebrated each May on Tuesday of the first full week of the month to thank teachers, past and present, for the positive role they play in educating children. The National Education Association describes this as "a day for honoring teachers and recognizing the lasting contributions they make to our lives."
It's been many years since I was in school, but I still have strong memories of the teachers who nurtured my creative interests, patiently explained subjects I initially found confusing, or piqued my curiosity in new topics and ideas.
I think many adults can look back and name the teacher or teachers who changed the way they looked at the world. For me, one teacher who stands out is Mr. Mackey. In elementary school my favorite class was art, and Mr. Mackey was a high-energy teacher whose art cart would appear to arrive on its own in our classroom, as if by magic, to be followed by Mr. Mackey himself, swinging through the door like Tarzan! Because I loved art, I enjoyed every assignment Mr. Mackey gave us - collages, self-portraits, exercises in perspective, working with clay, etc. While we worked on our projects, Mr. Mackey would often read to us from a book called Stranger Than Fiction, a book about real-life unsolved mysteries. This marked the beginning of my fascination with unsolved mysteries and missing people. In fact, one of my early novels, Missing Since Monday, is a mystery about a little girl who disappears without a clue.
Longtime readers may know that as a writer, it's important to me that I first create a detailed outline of my story. Mr. Doherty, who was my sixth- and-eighth grade creative writing teacher, instilled this lesson in me, and it's been the foundation for every book I've ever written. This doesn't mean it's the only way to write, but it's the way I prefer to prepare.
My admiration for my teachers and for the classes they taught meant that I loved to play school at home. Because I was older, I always designated myself as the teacher and my younger sister Jane as my student. Jane was remarkably patient with her very inexperienced but eager young teacher. Teaching became an important part of my life as I grew older, first helping out with younger kids in Sunday School, then working at a school for autistic students during the summers, and finally, teaching fourth/ fifth grade in a private school in Connecticut after graduating from college. Eventually, it seemed a natural progression to shift from teaching children to writing books for children, and I left the classroom to begin my career first as a children's book editor and eventually, a children's book author.
The readers of the first books I wrote are now grown. I'm touched to hear from those who write to tell me that their love of reading, often inspired by series such as The Baby-sitters Club, influenced their decision to become teachers themselves. The connection between reading and teaching and learning is very strong, and when readers become teachers, this connection is passed along to the next generation.
So thank you, Mr. Mackey and Mr. Doherty, along with so many other wonderful teachers I was lucky to have had, and thank you to all the teachers today who dedicate themselves to fostering a love of learning in their students. You are appreciated.
P.S. Since 1990, The Lisa Libraries has contributed over 400,000 books to nonprofit organizations across the country. If you'd like to learn more about the Lisa Libraries, check out the website at www.lisalibraries.org.