by Grace Feng, ’20
Reprinted with permission from Teen Ink Magazine, 2019.
I have always had the ability to trace my hobbies back to specific people; my love of music came from frequent car rides with dad, my love of Narnia came from read-alouds with mom. But my love of writing stemmed from Mrs. Spitzer’s seventh grade class. I remember sitting in bean bag chairs wracking my brain for ideas and her quick wit that never failed to make me laugh. It was this unique experience that introduced me to the world of creating fiction – not just reading it, but putting ideas down on paper and weaving them into an intricate web that, when you step back and look, has turned into something more amazing than you could imagine.
Mrs. Spitzer is the kind of teacher that you hope to get but never do; except in my case, I was lucky and did. She introduced me to the idea of writing not only as a bond between people, but also as a unique, personal experience that can’t be replaced. Mrs. Spitzer taught me the fundamentals of creative writing – not just plot and conflict, but depth of character and plot complexity, two things that meld the real world with fiction. She built the foundation that future teachers would expand upon, showing me skills that I use to this day.
Up until her class, my time middle school had been ordinary – lockers and desks and the usual friendly drama. But her classroom was different. It became my very own space; the walls were no longer confining but ever expanding, making way for my ideas and imagination. It became an open field where centaurs and elves could run free. She helped the magic of the ordinary world turn extraordinary. She gave me my first writer’s journal, a priceless item I still use today (I’ve filled out several since then). I’ve crammed ideas and plot points, characters, and snippets of conversation into notebooks. Mrs. Spitzer taught me how to see people through an author’s eyes, giving real scenarios to imaginary people, and real emotion to imaginary circumstances. “Never throw anything away,” she would say. My saved ideas remain hidden within the pages of a spiral notebook with my name printed on the cover.
Mrs. Spitzer also introduced me to poetry, something that was foreign and abstract. She turned it into something tangible and, well, readable. Poetry was the first thing I ever published on Teen Ink; all the pieces I published after that were because of her. I wrote my first poem in her class, sitting in the red rocking chair by the window. At the time, poetry didn’t seem fun, but throughout the year, I realized that she was handing me a tool, presenting me with a new way of expressing emotion, teaching me to take it and weave metaphors and imagery throughout, using the least amount of words to pack the most punch.
From my first words written in her classroom to my last, I knew I would get the same uncompromising critique, something I valued then and still do now, because that is how I grew as a writer. Even now, I feel comfortable enough to send her pieces that I’m working on (no small feat, considering I keep my writing under lock and key).
Mrs. Spitzer is not only a great teacher, but a great writer and most importantly, an inspiration for anyone who walks through her door. She was the reason I first put words on the page, and I owe it to her to continue.