Fremantle Press authors from Holden Sheppard to HM Waugh share their stories of the teachers that inspired and encouraged them
As it comes to the end of the school year, we know that teachers everywhere will be getting ready to enjoy the Christmas holidays after a busy year. To acknowledge you for all the hard work you do day in day out, we asked four Fremantle Press authors to share their stories of teachers who have inspired and encouraged them on the path to becoming writers and illustrators.
A teacher who truly inspired me was my Year 12 English teacher. I had always been a strong English student through high school, but I remember going through a rough time when I was 16 – depression, drinking – and leaving my first essay of that year to the very last minute. I felt like I did a terrible job of it.
When my teacher handed out the marks to everyone in the class, she left me until last, and then told me to meet her outside the classroom. I was terrified that I’d stuffed it up. But she handed me my essay with a 100% mark on it. I was floored. She was, too. She told me people don’t get 100% in English, ever, but my writing was incredible.
She was the first teacher – and the first adult ever, really – who saw my writing and told me I had talent, and her encouragement throughout that year inspired me to believe in myself and my writing. I graduated that year with a Certificate of Distinction in English – and a result within the top 0.5% of WA – but, moreover, I left high school believing in myself, and believing I could make something with my writing. She still holds a special place in my heart, and she has a special mention in the acknowledgements of my novel, Invisible Boys.
I remember early in primary school, I had a teacher who would take us walking in a remnant forest block at our school, and point out all the important parts of the ecosystem there. Their explanation of why fallen logs should be left to rot down rather than be cleaned up remains a clear memory. My child self was amazed when I realised how many different creatures could live in one dead log.
Was that teacher the sole reason I became an environmental scientist? Nope. But were they a significant inspiration? Absolutely.
My high school art teachers were Mrs Posner and Mrs Rawlings. I wasn’t into fine art so much as graphic design and illustration, and they let me pursue that. They helped me to hone my skills, but most of all they encouraged me. That support is so vital when you’re a kid – you can’t underestimate its effect.
The teacher that inspired me the most was Mrs Pearce, who was my art teacher in primary school in the early 1980s. She lived in the pointy house next door to the tiny village school, wore her grey hair in a bun and had half-moon specs on a chain. In her classes we made things with plasticine and dried legumes, learned to do decorative sewing and made clothes for our toys out of felt. My favourite project, and one that I still remember, was illustrating the Jabberwocky from Lewis Carroll’s poem with wax candles and watercolours. She was great!
Books by all of these authors are available online on the Fremantle Press website and at all good bookstores.