I can name each one. Mrs. Herkus. Ms. Runquist (now Soback). Ken DiMaggio. Fred Cooksey. Maureen Owen. Bhanu Kapil.
Seventh grade. Junior year of high school. Capitol Community College (Hartford, CT). Smith College Summer Writing Program (Northampton, MA). Naropa University (Boulder, CO).
Each teacher inspired me. One drove me home one afternoon when I was forgotten and waiting. She kindled my love of words. She got me on stage. One told me I could poem. Like…be a poet. One slipped books into my hands that others would have banned. One showed me the importance of threading needles into words to create a new lineage of skin.
When I entered their classrooms, I was no longer invisible. Or the sad one. Or failing. Or falling. They called on me. They challenged me. They never let me get away with “I can’t…”
I ran from classrooms and never would have dreamed I’d be in one again. Especially as a teacher. But here I am, waking at 5am three days a week to travel underground to the Bronx to be inspired. All of my students are writers and I remind them of this everyday because I wonder if maybe no one ever told them this. Sometimes humans are left behind due to language barriers or communicative restrictions. Sometimes trauma takes away our voice. Sometimes it is the one who stands in front of us with chalk marks on their cheap pants and bags beneath their eyes from late nights grading papers who reminds us the importance of not giving up.