Honors English Teacher

by Pat
(Merrimack, NH, USA )

Eleventh grade honors English was definitely the most important course I ever took – at least in the sense of providing the hinge pin between public school and college, youth and adulthood.


The course was taught by the most fantastic teacher I ever had. Mrs. McMichael was primarily a foreign language teacher whose forte was upper level French. But some years before I had her, she had helped create “Creative Language Arts,” a junior and senior year English program for the best students. She set the bar high for us in eleventh grade, yet her passion was infectious and she rewarded and congratulated us on our work with tremendous enthusiasm.

The structure of the first quarter revolved around essays assigned weekly, structured as definitions. The outline for each definition was, “Is – does – therefore.” The assignments were not only exercises in writing and description: the subjects, beginning with “Language” meant we were teaching ourselves the meaning and significance of words, metaphors, figures of speech and communication itself. We began to understand the power of language and our skills to use it.

Next we turned to poetry, and were assigned a poetic form each week. Hence we learned the expressiveness and joy of language. To discover wisdom, and the search for truth and meaning, we turned to philosophy.

Finally we would read drama and write autobiographical and other essays. The final product of the class was a booklet called, “Vernisage,” a French word related to the use of varnish and shellac. Mrs. McMichael marked our worthiest assignments with the letter, “V”, sometimes followed by a plus sign, sometimes followed by a question mark. These marks were coveted, and they meant our pieces would be considered by a student team for inclusion in the course’s final product.

Our book meant far more to us than our grades, and this is evidenced by the fact that I could hand it to you right this moment – even though this junior year English collection was assembled in 1971. Hats off to Mrs. McMichael: She inspired us, she taught us well, and I dare say she loved us.

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