Column: Educators open the door for the next generation

Published 10:12 am Monday, July 8, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

As a young elementary school student, one of the subjects I struggled with the most was reading. I remember attending a brief summer camp after kindergarten to help with my learning. It wasn’t until second grade that I was given the tools to improve my reading by a kind old man who, unbeknownst to him, changed my life.

During second grade at Elvin Hill Elementary School, my teacher introduced me to a reading coach who would periodically meet with me one-on-one outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, his name has been lost to me but I remember the time he took with me to read short books and the impact he ended up having.

It turns out those brief meetings that focused on just my own difficulties without the distractions of others were just the thing I needed to grow in reading comprehension.

I improved dramatically in my reading and writing skills after those extra lessons and began to read much more advanced material instead of just picture books. I suddenly became a bookworm and read through books in the Harry Potter series and my writing progressed to the point where I even began to write my own Star Wars fanfiction which I still possess even to this day.

By late middle school, English had grown to be one of my strongest subjects and I had the opportunity to dabble in poetry and to read even more thanks to my school’s library. By eighth grade I was one of the top students in my English class and got the opportunity to take a placement test that measured my viability for advanced classes in high school.

When I started high school, I enjoyed reading but I didn’t truly understand the power of literature until I took those advanced placement classes with a passionate teacher who instilled my love of literary criticism.

When I first started ninth grade, frankly, I was terrified of my new English teacher who had an imposing presence that matched the equally stringent class syllabus. However, in hindsight it seems he was just trying to wrangle together a bunch of ninth graders who thought that they knew it all. Over time, he softened and we could see how kind he was as well as how brilliant.

He had the ability to take a short story that was seemingly straightforward and with one sentence completely change how you thought about the tale. Suddenly, stories became more than words on a page and the intent of the author became a matter of intrigue and debate.

Those AP classes showed me power of literature and how a fictional tale could deliver abstract meaning even more powerful than nonfiction. They taught me critical thinking skills and prepared me for topics and ideas I would see again in college.

Ultimately, I went on to the University of Montevallo where I studied English and now I have a career because of the newfound passion I had for a subject that was only made possible by those educators who helped me along the way.