Lucia Peters, Senior Editor:
To be honest, I never thought that I would grow up to be a writer. For years, I thought of it as one of those things that I enjoyed doing and at which I was fairly good; like many creative ventures, though, it didn’t fall under the heading of “Real Job,” so it was never more than a means to various ends. It came as something of a surprise, then, when I realized that I had in fact grown up into a writer—and I know for a fact that without Liz, it never would have happened.
Liz (we were not, under any circumstances, to call her “Ms. Bedell”) was one of my high school English teachers. My favorite high school English teacher, in fact. Come to think of it, she’s probably one of the best English teachers I’ve ever had. College and grad school may have honed my skills, but I first began developing them under Liz’s watch. She was passionate about literature; she was passionate about writing; and she was passionate about teaching. She always challenged us to think harder, to deepen our understanding of what we were reading, and then to learn how to express it not only in speech, but on paper as well. Not only that, but she made it FUN while she was doing it.
Perhaps the most important thing she did was call us out on our work if she knew we were capable of something better than what we handed in. I still remember submitting an essay about Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that I KNEW was… shall we say, analytically flimsy; but I submitted it anyway because I was pressed for time, and stressed, and didn’t particularly like Joyce at the time (I do now, but oh! The callowness of youth!). I received a B+ on it, which was probably better than it deserved. I know this because the first of Liz’s comments read, “It’s a good thing that your prose is so strong, because otherwise this paper definitely wouldn’t have been worth its grade.”
I laughed, because it was funny; but it was also true. That was the last time I submitted a piece of academic writing that wouldn’t at least stand up against an attempt by an intelligence greater than my own to tear it apart.
And I know I’m not the only one to whom Liz has made a difference in her many, many years of teaching. So, on behalf of all the kids like me who never thought they’d grow up to be writers, but did anyway because of Liz Bedell, I’m putting her forth as a woman who definitely D-serves.