It was 2003. I was beginning my senior year in a new school with unfamiliar faces.
My parents were missionaries. They allowed me to live with my grandparents in Illinois that year to have a “normal” high school experience and begin looking at colleges.
Mr. Hanold was my English teacher. He had unruly grey hair that stuck up every which way as he often ran both hands over his head in thought or frustration. He wore brown sports jackets or thick cardigans.
He quickly became my favorite teacher and left a deep impression as he humbled and challenged me.
He wrote emendations on the papers of his students in red pen. “I will make your papers bleed,” Mr. Hanold would say. He was true to his word. I came to understand and appreciate the value of correction with each paper returned from his desk. Mr. Hanold taught that, “A good writer is never done editing, but is always changing and improving what has been written.”
I was homesick for my family. I recall leaving class in tears one day during the middle of a lecture. Mr. Hanold sent a friend after me and then joined us in the hall. Although he was uncomfortable with the turbulent emotions of a young girl, Mr. Hanold went beyond his duties to calm and reassure. He taught me to channel thoughts and emotions through written word. He mentored, advised, and was a father figure during a year when my own father could not be by my side.
Years passed. I am a wife and mother now. Tucked away in my little writing room, I sit at a rugged desk as my reflections are written (and re-written). The young girl who once dwelt in the classroom of a great man often comes to mind. As a graduate, she walked away forever changed because of a teacher who believed she could write. He gave her dreams of where a pen might lead, the courage to embrace writing, and the confidence to share that gift with others.
Mr. Hanold, the right words are “Thank you.”