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Mrs. Spearman: A Remembrance and Commitment

At first I struggled to remember exactly what her class was like. When Dr. Cunningham died I had a flood of vivid and exact memories wash over me. With Mrs. Spearman I had to think… was that the year we read Things Fall Apart and The Bride Price? Or was it Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man? Didn’t we read Langston Hughes poems? I remembered the room at the far west end of the first floor hall, some of the other students in the class and vaguely some presentations we made. But then, I remembered-- one of the strongest memories in all my high school years. It came back.

“Kacey, why do you want to be a doctor when you can write so well?”

At the time I had no answer. I’m sure I said something, but I didn’t have a real answer. Truthfully, I thought that’s what smart kids did. And I did love science. I still do. I am still fascinated by how the human body works.

I has taken me years to realize she was right. I love language. I love to write. I love putting words together in beautiful ways, in order to convey an exact meaning, an exact feeling or describe something so well that the reader is, for a few moments, immersed in your world. I like to move people with words. I also love to take them apart, study them. I like to pick apart a sentence to parse its meaning. Words are important to me. They affect people. They should be used with more care and treated with more respect.

She was also right about something else. She was blunt. She was clear. She spoke to me like I was an adult. She had a passion for words and she recognized it in me. She didn’t care what smart kids were supposed to do. She called me out and it stuck with me.

I did not become a doctor. I did choose a profession that allowed me to write, but not in my own voice. I have a chance now to spend some time writing in my own voice. I have the opportunity to spend time with words, with language. In honor of that memory, of the impact Kay Spearman had on me and countless other “smart kids,” I make a promise to myself to write—to write and to read, to spend time with language and good literature.

I am really busy right now, so it would have been a lot more convenient if she could have waited a few months so I could have had this epiphany later. But she didn’t, and that’s part of the message I’m taking. I am never too busy for words.

Kay Spearman, Kacey's Junior year High School English teacher died yesterday after deteriorating from emphysema and other heart/lung problems. She taught in the International Baccalaureate program at Pensacola High School when it was a brand new, untested experiment. She was passionate about literature and passionate about teaching. She is missed.

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