Thank You, Teacher: Grate­ful Stu­dents Tell the Sto­ries of the Teach­ers Who Changed Their Lives

Holly Hol­bert, edi­tor Bruce Hol­bert, edi­tor

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - THOMAS H. BRENNAN

New World Li­brary

Hard­cover $21.95 (304pp) 978-1-60868-418-2

Teach­ers will love these let­ters for they way that they vividly val­i­date the hard work they do in the class­room.

Thank You, Teacher is a col­lec­tion of de­light­ful let­ters ex­press­ing grat­i­tude to ed­u­ca­tors, com­piled and edited by Holly and Bruce Hol­bert. This book is not a page-turner, but one to work through slowly, med­i­tat­ing on the abun­dance of hu­man wis­dom and kind­ness ex­em­pli­fied by the many teach­ers ad­dressed, all of whom in­spired their stu­dents.

The plea­sure of the let­ters is their in­ti­mate tone, as if the writ­ers have gath­ered around a kitchen ta­ble to remember the teach­ers who changed their lives. The au­thors range from the well-known peo­ple like Maya An­gelou, Alan Der­showitz, and John Glenn to peo­ple like Joan Baker, a voice-over ac­tress. Many of the most prom­i­nent peo­ple re­veal an un­known char­ac­ter flaw that may have been their down­fall if not for a com­pas­sion­ate teacher. Der­showitz, for ex­am­ple, be­lieved, de­spite test scores to the contrary, that he was a dunce, un­til an in­flu­en­tial teacher said he was wise (and didn’t ap­pend the word “aleck”).

These let­ters cover the universe of ed­u­ca­tion, from re­mote ru­ral prairies to ur­ban schools, in re­li­gious and public schools, and from the ear­li­est grades to col­lege class­rooms. The ma­jor­ity of the let­ters are writ­ten by pub­lished au­thors, so their lit­er­ary qual­ity is re­mark­able. While the phrase “I remember” is used re­peat­edly and the au­thors re­late the com­mon thread of an ex­cel­lent teacher, each let­ter has an en­gag­ing per­sonal qual­ity, poignant with­out be­ing too sen­ti­men­tal. The vast ma­jor­ity ex­press love and af­fec­tion for their sub­jects, though a few also ad­dress hated teach­ers and dys­func­tional schools that also

im­parted valu­able lessons. Mar­i­ana Klaveno sums up the com­mon theme of kind­heart­ed­ness when she notes that “it’s re­mark­able how hard you’ll work for some­one who be­lieves in you.”

Be­sides ac­knowl­edg­ing teach­ers, the book also con­tains com­men­tary on the state of con­tem­po­rary ed­u­ca­tion. While vis­it­ing the li­brary with his chil­dren in his child­hood town, Chris Of­futt notes that he was “stunned to re­al­ize that no one was there on a Satur­day af­ter­noon.”

Teach­ers will love these let­ters for they way that they vividly val­i­date the hard work they do in the class­room.

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