Every once in a great while, there are teachers who inspire us. At least, that’s how the story goes. An idealized teacher, who give their all to their craft and manage to not only convey the material they promised to teach but inspire their students. Teachers who show the students there is more to life then just the classroom and books and grades.
For me, that teacher exists. His name is Mr. Walter Bowne.
Mr. Bowne. High school English and Journalism teacher at Eastern Regional High School. At least, from 2000-2004, the time I attended.
I’ll never forget my second day of class in Honor English I. I can’t remember the first day, but the second made quite an impression. We (the class) had written an in-class essay on our summer reading book on our first day. The next day, Mr. Bowne tore the class apart, respectfully. On the list of numerable, basic offenses, we had not identified the subject or book in the opening sentence, composed poorly structured paragraphs, assumed he knew what we were talking about without identifying the subject. Also, students were using internet short hand in an honors English paper. Those offenses were unacceptable. That rant (I guess I remember it as a rant) was a hook, a glimpse into how he saw the world.
I don’t know a way to properly articulate how much he meant to me. I guess, the simplest way is that he opened the door. He showed me that writing was fun and didn’t have to be the stiff, academic procedure devoid of emotion that I always assumed it was, from middle school teachers. There was no joy in the english language, only grammar and regulations and a requirement to enjoy Shakespeare without really understanding what made it so great.
He imparted on me the sense that English was a language that could be enjoyed, and toyed with. He made us analyze songs to understand what the lyrics were actually saying. During my time as his student, I began to actually put my ideas on paper. He encouraged that. I remember asking him, without any real idea what I was talking about, to help me edit my first and only fan fiction. He politely turned me down. Looking back, I understand how absurd the request was, but I had no idea. Thankfully, he framed his rejection in a manner in which I didn’t give up.
During his free time, he ran Eastern’s Literary club and school paper. I remember putting in so many hours because of those two projects that I simply didn’t take the normal school bus home most days. That’s the kind of effort that he inspired in me. I didn’t rush home after school, I went straight to his class room to start working. In fact, I don’t have a picture, but I still have copies of those newspapers. Under his guidance, we made the newspaper grow from a simple booklet to a work that actually resembled a newspaper.
He took our literary club and made it into a grand event. Running around dropping copies off before class at the end of the year. Once, somehow, Eastern’s computer network, which was new at the time, lost our entire layout. I stayed with the senior editor and rebuilt the entire file from scratch. A lot of time went into saving that edition.
Here are a few things he did that I still remember:
- Handing out photocopies of his personal Shakespeare collection because the school copies were censored.
- Taking us to a Def Jam Poetry Slam.
- Taking us to a Shakespeare play.
- Making write a rap to Shakespeare’s plays.
- Showing that the depth of a paper is more important then just how much is in the report (no one else ever mentioned that until college thesis’s).
When I think of someone who had a huge impact on my life, he’s near the top, in or out of school. I wanted to go to class, to learn from him, to see his perspective on the world. he’s the reason I wrote my first short story, the reason I’m still writing today, hoping to get published. I don’t think I can ever quite live up the standard he set for me, but I’ll keep trying.
I took classes with Mr. Bowne for four years. Two English classes and two Journalism classes. Those Journalism classes were electives. I chose to take two more years of classes with him. I never did get to tell him I got a 4 on the AP English exam, a fact I attributed largely to his influence on me. He is the teacher who inspired me to write. I would not be nearly the reader and writer I am without him. Certainly, I wouldn’t be anywhere close to even thinking I could publish a manuscript. But I am. And he is the biggest reason why.