Who Was Your Favorite Teacher?

Ransom Riggs

Over the weekend, one of my favorite high school teachers passed away. She was Linda Janoff -- Mrs. Janoff to her students -- and anyone who took AP Literature and Composition at my school had a whole year with Mrs. J. She was brilliant, funny, sarcastic and uncompromising -- and she taught us how to write. (The fact that I got my undergrad degree in literature and now make my living writing is at least partly due to her.) Here's a little window into her technique, written by Mrs. Janoff herself:

When I started teaching writing in high school, my challenge was to overcome students' tendencies--whether innate or programmed--to strive merely to meet the expectations of their teachers. For students, writing was an exercise in figuring out "what the teacher wants." I wanted my students to get in touch with themselves, to write for themselves. I believe that a teenager who is aware of his/her inner voice, gains self-respect, and that an awareness of his/her own dignity leads a student to respect others. My ultimate goal, you might have perceived, is world peace. [Ed. note: I told you she was funny!]

I'm certainly not the only person to have been inspired by a teacher. We'd love to hear from you -- who was your favorite teacher, and why? While you're thinking it over, here are two videos of people talking about their favorite teachers, both involving the President of the United States.

Mrs. Janoff had a way with words, and would make our class break up with laughter at least once a day. A few of my favorite Linda Janoff quotes:

"Are you listening to me? I'm being fascinating!"

"A puritan is someone who's afraid that somewhere somehow, someone is having fun."

On a particular composition assignment: "I don't want any abstract crap."

On my being overly repetitious in a piece of writing: "You're not just beating a dead horse -- the dead cavalry is here!"

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