A Great Teacher's Legacy
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
On Friday night, I decided that I wanted to watch something “light and fun” after a hard week of work. Unfortunately, I have trouble enjoying most mindless television. I flipped the channel to my local PBS station and saw that a special called “Shakespeare Uncovered” on his plays Henry IV parts I and II and Henry V was just starting. I settled in for an enjoyable hour as Jeremy Irons discussed the three plays with Shakespearean experts as he traveled around England and northern France.
Before I entered sophomore year in high school, I didn’t like Shakespeare. I thought, in my youthful arrogance, that he was an overrated playwright that old-fashioned adults forced us to read because they had been forced to read him. Thankfully, that was the year I had Miss G. for English. I remember groaning on the first day of class upon learning that the entire second quarter was dedicated to Shakespeare. At the dinner table that night, I complained about it and remember my dad’s amused expression. It’s an expression I have seen many times.
I expected to tolerate Shakespeare. I would read him because it was expected of me, but I would never like it. I did not imagine wanting to read Shakespeare on my own outside of class. Never in my wildest imaginings as I sat in class at the beginning of the second quarter could I have thought that I would come to love Shakespeare. And yet, I did, all thanks to an amazing teacher who brought to life his words through her passion for his work.
Somehow, someway, Miss G. inspired a group of teenagers, making historicals like Henry IV relevant to our lives. As we read, she taught us to recognize the layers inherent in all of Shakespeare’s writing, the depth of the characters, the carefully chosen word to allow for ambiguity and different interpretations. She helped us relate to the young prince, showing us that he wasn’t all that different from us with his difficult relationship with his father, his growing pains, his doomed friendship with Falstaff. We could relate to him as we struggled through those tough teenage years with our own tumultuous relationships with our parents, friends or siblings. I can still see her face lit with joy as she read from his plays, bringing the words lyrically to life.
Since then, I have seen many of Shakespeare’s plays. When I was still in high school, I went to a University of Montana performance of “Twelfth Night.” It was performed in the round and I loved it. It remains one of my favorite performances, in part I think, because I was still discovering my love for Shakespeare. When I traveled to London, England last year, I wanted to see one of his plays in the recreated Globe Theatre. However, none of his plays were to be on stage until after my visit. It will be a reason to return to London someday.
Miss G.’s passion was teaching and inspiring the students in her class. She inspired me with her love of Shakespeare and with her example of living her life, doing what she loved. I will forever be thankful she was my sophomore year English teacher.