My English teachers were the highlight of high school – Schools of Thought

By Bryan ToussaintCNN

Editor’s note: In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week this week, we’re asking our CNN colleagues to share their stories of teachers who have inspired them. Bryan Toussaint is an associate producer at

I hated high school, or maybe I just hated adolescence. I found the years between 15 and 18 particularly boring and awkward. It was like going through security at the airport. Most of us would like to avoid the procedure, but living the experience is the only way to get you closer to where you want to go.

Fortunately, my Grade 11 and 12 English teachers, Ms. Kappel and Ms. King, were there to make the teenage experience a little more tolerable. They introduced me to Bigger Thomas, the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Holden Caulfield, Basil Duke Lee, and other characters who would serve as my surrogate friends.

Many of these characters dealt with the same coming-of-age issues that I encountered back then. Ms. Kappel and Ms. King taught me to appreciate great literature and through these book reviews taught me to organize my thoughts, to be a more critical thinker. I freely admit that ‘Invisible Man’, ‘Native Son’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ were part of the program. But I most enjoyed the books and short stories they recommended I read outside of what was required, especially the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I thank Ms. King for that.

Ms. Kappel deserves much of the credit, or blame, depending on your perspective, for my decision to pursue journalism or another career in the liberal arts. (The minus D’s and C’s I got in algebra, calculus, and chemistry were also big factors in this process.) I’m introverted. I can’t sing. I’m not particularly athletic and won’t dance unless I’m drunk. Writing has always been my first means of expression, my means of “sharing my gifts” as she would say. Ms. Kappel encouraged me to do so by writing a diary.

At the time, I didn’t really understand why she was interested in my thoughts on the world. And while she didn’t always agree with the opinions of a 16-year-old girl who had her ears wet, she constantly told me that she appreciated my thought process and the way I related the world to me. surrounded.

Besides encouraging me to write, she was the first teacher who really seemed to care about who I was as a person and what I had to say. She challenged me to do my best and often chided me for going for a B when she felt I had A+ potential. Ms. Kappel was tough but very fair. He was someone who sought to motivate me by identifying and making the most of my positives while acknowledging my weaknesses and challenging me to improve. Ms. Kappel would probably have been an excellent boss. I know she was an excellent teacher.

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