I was asked to write about a favorite teacher for a project in a philosophy of education course. The person who asked me plans to use the lenses of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Pádraic Pearse to look at the responses from various people. Here’s mine:
I remember many good teachers, but no one that stands out far above the rest. But I’ll pick one: Miss Dierdorf at W. P. McLean Junior High School cared about literature and history in an infectious way. She organized a class newspaper project in which we wrote and illustrated stories from Greek (and Roman) mythology. The antics of the ancient heroes and gods became as real to us as the day-to-day events around the school.
As I recall, every student felt that he or she had a vital contribution to make to the newspaper. We designed the paper, wrote and drew, because we too cared about the stories and the characters. I think that the sense of becoming engaged with the ideas and feelings of the past or faraway has stayed with me ever since.
It was interesting to see that the majority of the responses were about English teachers.
I should add that there are many mythology newspaper curriculum units available on the web and other formats, such as Greek Mythology Newspaper, by the children’s book author, Bernard Evslin. They all seem to be more sharply defined in terms of skill development and assessment than I remember the class to be.