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Jan 30 2016
by Jade Miller

To My High School English Department

By Jade Miller - Jan 30 2016
Dear High School English Department, 

It's been a while since I've walked the musty halls of F-M (my high school) and sat in an English classroom that I could call home. I was going to write to one teacher in particular, but I can say with all of the soul in the world that recognizing one of you wouldn't be enough; you've all impacted me in a way I never thought I could be, and while this will be long and tedious, I want each and every one of you to know you are what helped shape me to be who I am today. 

To Ms. Wheeler. You were the third English teacher I had at F-M, and the one that helped me cross the stage on graduation day. While I only spent one semester with you, you have changed my life for the better. Walking into Essay Writing on the first day was scary; I had taking the class as a fluff class because I needed to focus on some other classes, but I didn't realize the impact this class would have on me. You taught me that in order to write well I needed to put my heart into it, even it if was a paper that was meant to be all factual. You taught me that metaphors can be used in ways I had never thought of before (the metaphor project remains, to this day, one of my favorites), and is the reason that I can use the metaphors in my poetry so smoothly now. That's something I will never be able to repay. 

To Ms. Patroulis. You are the first teacher I remember having my freshman year of high school. My first English teacher, but more importantly, the teacher that helped me shape my college essay senior year in AP Literature. You helped me understand works like "The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time" and helped me analyze works like "As I Lay Dying," and make it into an argumentative piece, no matter how many people didn't agree with my work. You taught me that I should read something and find my own view and take that view and use it, no matter how much someone disagrees, because there will always be people who disagree. You also taught me that it's okay to not read a book to its entirety, but you have to be able to understand the work and find the main points in order to have a standing argument. I never had that before your class. I wrote my letter to my graduating self in your class, and I learned how much of a loser I was, but you put up with me anyway. 

To Mr. Clardy. You are the reason I read with such passion. "Into the Wild" still to this day remains my favorite book. You taught me I can apply books to real life, that books aren't the only thing that counts as humanities as evident by the numerous art projects we did for class. You taught me that every book has a purpose, and while some may not like the book, it doesn't mean that I shouldn't like it. You helped me realize I had some sort of potential in the literary world, that I could analyze, that I could interpret, that I could give a view and stand up for it. I didn't have to follow what everyone says, because that doesn't create a good argument or a good discussion, it leaves the room boring. But most of all, you taught me that there is always something good in every book. If you hadn't taught me that, I wouldn't have fallen in love with the books I did, or the books I've fallen in love with since. 

To Mrs. Breed. While I only had you for one semester, you were the light in my last period for my senior year. Your class, while an elective, was one of my favorites. I sat in that class and wrote what my heart wanted me to write, and you allowed that creativity to flow where I hadn't let it before. You taught me that if I'm lost in writing I can always look up an idea and work from there because sometimes great ideas don't come from your head on your own – they need a little help. You taught me that regular writing can be just as beautiful as poetry and is the reason I started writing prose along with poetry. It's the reason I write so much now, I think, because I've written pages about heartbreak but also poems about the same thing. I don't think I could have done that without you. You taught me criticism comes in all forms, and it was in CW that I learned how to sit through that pain and learn where my mistakes were, even if I thought there were none. If it wasn't for you I would probably break down crying every time I got back a paper from my English classes now. 

And finally, to Mr. Burns. You have shaped me the most out of all the teachers I have had at the high school I now call my past. You showed me I could pursue poetry as an outlet and as a way of getting my work out there, something I have always been so scared to do. It wasn't until I joined Voices (HS Literary Magazine) that I really got to see that I wasn't the only one with a talent, and wasn't the only one trying to be a poet. For a long time I felt alone even if that wasn't necessarily the case, and you showed me I always had a place to call home, even if I thought I didn't. Having you in AP Lit as the last English teacher I would have in HS was probably one of the greatest things that could have happened. I learned to not only appreciate poetry, but understand what it was meant for. I'm reading Walt Whitman now and Wordsworth in class and I can't help but think that this is where I'm comfortable and it's because of you. You showed me that even shitty poetry is still poetry nonetheless and if I can't understand it, it doesn't mean someone else can. You taught me to put expression in my voice even though I haven't been able to do that in a long time, which is why now I'm so confident speaking in class, something new. You taught me that even though I thought I had reached my peak, I hadn't, that's the reason I'm still writing, even writing this dedication, because of you. If it wasn't for you, I would not be writing this or any article for that matter, and that means more than the world. 

My dearest F-M teachers, you are the reason I have chosen English Literature as my major. You are the reason I can read a book and even if I cringe reading it, I can appreciate it for what it is worth. You are the reason I can proudly say at a Science-dominated school that the Humanities is the best department to be in here. You are the reason I am happy to write, read, be poetic, be prose-y, the reason I am happy to be myself. No amount of thanks will ever be enough and I wish I had more words to tell you how much you mattered to me as a department, because you are one of a kind and a group of people that will never leave my heart. Thank you for all you have done. I hope your current and future students give back 100% to your 110, because no one deserves that more than all of you. 


The English Major Who Loved Every Minute of Her Classes With You

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Jade Miller - University of Rochester

Jade Miller is a sophomore at the University of Rochester double majoring in Business and English Literature. She is a Junior Editor for the Fresh U national site. She is a member of the sorority Gamma Phi Beta and also a coxswain for UR Rowing. She loves dogs, reading, and having a single this year in her res hall. Follow her on Twitter @jade_miller_

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