Between the Lines: May-June 2002



At May's commencement ceremony, President Keohane always cites the graduates earning teacher certification. The lives of everyone, she observes, have been touched by teachers in elementary and secondary schools. It's a theme that defines a new book titled, a bit preciously, I Remember My Teacher. Teachers make a difference--usually not in knowable or predictable ways, but certainly in important ways.

With that message in mind, this issue of the magazine explores the theme of teaching and teachers. The theme grows from a year-long celebration of 150 years of preparing teachers at Duke and its predecessor institutions. In these pages, you'll find a mix of personal and institutional stories: impressions from teachers across the country and from a novice teacher in Japan, the entrepreneur behind a charter school, a summit meeting of education secretaries, a conversation about teacher preparation, and the technologically "smart" classroom.

The essays in I Remember My Teacher illustrate not so much the exotic or the state-of-the-art in teaching but, rather, familiar teacher types. There's the teacher who encourages exuberant experimentation. As one contributor says about his physics teacher in high school, "He let us blow stuff up." There's the habit-former, like the teacher who, finding her student "a little bored in class," told her "whenever I wanted to go to the library I could go." And, of course, there's the teacher who pushes the student to achieve his or her best. A student handed in a paper that wasn't very good; her English teacher looked directly at her and said, "Miss Walsh, this is a mediocre paper and you are not a mediocre person." A harsh public reprimand, but also an affirmation with an impact that endures.

Prepare to be taught some lessons about teaching. And, by the way, thanks to twelfth-grade English teacher Ruth Legow, who led me to find joy in reading writers and in being a writer, and who gave me my first editorship.

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