This blog post is written by NCTE member Evelyn Begody.
Mrs. Newman, my tenth-grade English teacher, wore her long straight hair loose. Straight out of the 1960s, she wore shapeless flowery dresses with flip flops and large, thick red-framed glasses. She also had the best deep, phlegm-thickened laugh, probably from smoking.
She listened to classical music on a small transistor radio that she positioned carefully for the best reception. After I returned to class from a suspension for fighting, I stood awkwardly next to her desk, waiting for a lecture, but instead she showed me a handwritten letter from John Steinbeck. She held it by just the edge of the paper as if it were ancient papyrus.
Sometime later that year, we visited a bookstore where she bought me two Steinbeck novels and On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz. Clearly she wanted me to understand myself. That was her version of lecturing: “Read about and understand it.”
Evelyn Begody, on her 22nd year of teaching high school English on the Navajo Nation, devotes lots to reading and writing. She loves hiking, Greek salads, her four children, her husband, and reading—but not in that order, of course.