My background in English
Today students of all ages text, tweet and send e-mails -- often using numerals and capital letters for whole words, or intentional misspellings to save space and time. The English language
skills are suffering as a result.
Mastering the mechanics of English and the ability to apply them are essential in filing out a job application, preparing for a driver's license examination and following written instructions, including recipes or driving directions. Many private schools, colleges and universities require an essay
as part of the admissions process. A well-written essay can tip the scales in favor of the student's being accepted. Later on, a well-written, carefully proofread cover letter and resume are essentials for landing a good job. Jobs in many professional fields require strong written and oral communication skills, and I believe these can be acquired by students of any age and that I can teach them.
I began reading at age three, and won my first writing award at age 14 for editing
my junior high school newspaper. In high school I entered a citywide writing contest which usually netted entries only in poetry and creative writing, although nothing in the rules prohibited students from submitting entries in any other style of writing. I felt that writing essays was my strong suit, so I wrote one about Monty Python
and won First Prize. As an AP English
student in the 12th grade, my teacher, Mrs. Radford, often photocopied my essays and critiques and handed them out to the rest of the class as examples of what she had expected from the assignment. Along with my parents and both grandfathers, all of whom were newspaper columnists or editors, I credit Mrs. Radford for helping hone my writing skills, as well as preparing me so thoroughly for the AP English Final, the ACT
and the SAT
exams that I easily placed out of Freshman English at UNC-Chapel Hill, and was able to move on to more advanced courses in literature
and poetry in my freshman year.
My parents and grandparents were also very influential in helping me to develop strong spelling
and usage skills. My mother was an English major in college, and wrote book reviews for our local newspaper for many years. Her father was a newspaper columnist for over 20 years. I expanded my vocabulary
far beyond that of my peers by doing crossword puzzles and playing Scrabble with him. My father, like his father before him, was a journalism
major and they were both newspaper editors -- Dad worked at the same paper for 42 years. Despite the deadline pressure under which they always worked, both my father and his father crafted prose that was intelligent and descriptive. Neither was afraid to use literary or classical allusions in their writing to drive home a point. Their hope was that if a reader did not appreciate the reference, perhaps he would be moved to look it up.
Currently I am a member of Amazon's Vine Voice program, which gives free books to reviewers whose comments have generated a high percentage of favorable responses from other readers. I am at work on a novel spanning 30 years in the life of Southern family who, while brilliant and attractive, are bent on self-destruction. Two of the five siblings, who were not close as children, become allies as adults as they attempt to break the cycle of addiction, lies and pain that have crippled their loved ones.
I am passionate about the English language and literature. I also know the rewards of sharing knowledge with others. I know that I can help high school students to discover the pleasure of reading a graceful sentence and the even greater joy of writing their own. I never sold any of the dozens of grammar, usage, poetry and literature textbooks I bought in college, and over the past 30 years I have acquired many more. I am prepared to help students in learning to write effectively and to help them learn how to think critically about literature.
My parents taught me and my brothers that history was a living thing, full of real people and real places with stories more vivid than many fiction writers could dream up. Many of our family vacations when I was growing up included numerous visits to historic sites and museums. Through these experiences and my parents' stories about their ancestors, especially those who served in the Civil War and World War
I and World War II, the past came alive for me. I was very fortunate in having a number of fine history teachers in junior high and high school. None of them believed that drilling dates, names and places into their students was an effective teaching tool, and as a result my classmates and I loved our high school classes in War and American Foreign Policy. My A.P. American History
class was both challenging and entertaining, and made very relevant by an especially gifted teacher, Mr. Banks. At my 30th high school reunion, a dear friend said quite publicly that if not for me she would not have passed Mr. Banks's class. I had forgotten the hours I spent helping her to grasp the material and prepare for his exams, but it was fun for both of us, although she did not think it would be. It was very gratifying to learn so many years later how meaningful those hours of study were to her.
In 1982 I graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in History. My studies were concentrated in the area of military history, and I received a grade of A+ in an Honors class which was a study-abroad program called "Battlegrounds of Western Europe in World War I and World War II." I also received an A+ in an Honors class which was an independent study program covering the history of the University of North Carolina itself. Our grade was based solely on two term papers, and our instructor, William S. Powell, a preeminent historian of North Carolina history, was a very tough but very fair grader.
After college I worked for two years at the Smithsonian Institution, and thoroughly explored all of the museums and historic sites in Washington. I would enjoy sharing these memories and experiences with students.
I welcome the opportunity to work with high school students who are studying the Civil War, American History 1865 - present, labor issues, women's studies, social studies