Today, many elementary schools and students celebrated Dr. Seuss’ birthday. In memory
of Theodor Seuss Geisel and his legacy of literacy and creativity, I’d like to honor Ms. Elizabeth Irvine, my 9th and 11th grade English teacher at Shaw High School in Mobile, Alabama. Other than my major professor, Ms. Irvine is the teacher who impacted my academic career most.
Ms. Irvine was a wonderful teacher who managed to balance her desire for cultivating creative written expression with an unabashed and unapologetic expectation that all students would write with proper mechanics. Ms. Irvine taught English thematically through the use of weeks-long projects that required students to author and assemble multiple pieces of formal and creative writing in a form worthy of publication. She organized units around poetry, genealogy, and short stories to name a few. Within those instructional units or in between them, Ms. Irvine hammered away at proper mechanics. If I have any ability to write today, I credit Ms. Irvine for expecting me to work hard but also for creating instruction that provided a motivating and authentic context to improve my writing. I looked forward to her class every day and looked forward to the challenge. With some teaching experience of my own, I can now appreciate the time and energy she expended preparing for class and evaluating our work. I have held onto every product I created in Ms. Irvine’s class; they mean that much to me.
A few days before I graduated from high school, Ms. Irvine invited me and two of my closest high school friends (Ian & Ben) to her room for a special presentation. She had us sit on the carpet in front of her as her class of 9th graders looked on. Ms. Irvine then read from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss as if we were children in an elementary classroom. With tears running down her face, she spoke each line directly to the three of us, imploring us to be courageous. “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!” “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!” Once concluded, Ms. Irvine handed each of us a copy of the book (pictured above) and sent us out to conquer our awaiting mountains. Inside the front cover, Ms. Irvine wrote: “Dear Jay, Go with God. Shalom, Elizabeth Irvine.” – wise words from a wise woman who taught me how to write, how to care about my work, and how to care about my fellow man.