Many wonderful classroom teachers contributed to my education over the years. Some challenged me more than I wanted to be challenged. Most were supportive and encouraging. I remember one time in grade school when I called one of my teachers “Mama” when I went to ask her a question. I suspect most of us did that from time to time.
When I think about the teachers in my life, the first one that comes to mind is Mrs. V. J. Shanklin who taught Junior and Senior English at Dresden High School in Dresden, Tennessee. Her given name was Martha, but I never knew that while I was in school. She was an excellent English teacher (grammar and literature), as good or better than any college teacher I ever had!
She also had all the qualities I’ve mentioned and more. She was even patient with me when I talked too much during study hall. Me? Believe it or not! I couldn’t help myself! I had to let off steam somewhere.
One of the things Mrs. Shanklin did that affected me for life, she did outside the classroom and without my knowledge. I’ve told this story before, and I guess I’ll tell it a hundred times more.
Mrs. Shanklin had enough belief in my writing to send a short story I had written to the Beta Club magazine. The story won an honorable mention. The honorable mention was great. The five-dollar check was nice (it was in the 60s).
The best gift, though, was her belief in me and in my writing. That gift has never left me—even when I doubt myself, which I do regularly.
I have no doubt that Mrs. Shanklin encouraged each of her students in whatever way they needed to be encouraged during her thirty-one years of teaching. I’m thankful that my parents allowed me to cross the county line to go to Dresden High School for my last two years. I’m thankful for the education and the encouragement I received from Mrs. V. J. Shanklin.