Atlanta Ethnic Media Celebrate Teachers ‘Who Changed My Life’

Atlanta Ethnic Media Celebrate Teachers ‘Who Changed My Life’

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Ed. Note: On April 6, New America Media held an awards ceremony for writers to The Teacher Who Changed My Life essay contest. A collaboration with local ethnic media, three contestants out of a pool of 75 entries in English, Spanish and Korean were awarded cash prizes for their essays in three separate categories – Teenage, Adult and Teacher in Memory. During the ceremony, winners were honored alongside the teachers profiled in their essays. Below are two of the winning entries in the Teenage and Teacher in Memory categories. Click here to read all the winning entries, as well as finalists and those given honorable mention.

Latin Teacher Brings Antiquity To Life
Winner, Teenage Category
Profile of Neal David by Peggy Xu

He wasn’t quite the tweed-clad, monocle-donning teacher I was expecting on my first day of Latin 1. In fact, he wasn’t like any teacher I was expecting: well built, thunderous, and a towering 6’4, he was a stentorian presence with a stentorian voice, who walked in strides and spoke with the tough cadence of a football coach. To neighboring teachers, he was the booming lecture that could always be heard four classrooms down the hall. To loitering freshmen, he was the dangerous confrontation that should be avoided at all costs. But to the rest of us, he was Mr. David – the man who would teach us the importance of hard work and endeavor, and the best teacher I would ever know.

Loud, fervent, and keenly articulate, Mr. David was a whirlwind of character with no shortage of zeal. Through spirited description and the gestures of an impassioned composer, he retold lifeless antiquity with vivid color, and revived for us the wonders of Caesar and Horace once lost to faded inscriptions. “Latin is everywhere,” he often said. “You just have to learn how to see.” And I did – I found it in literature, in music, in the cornerstones of our modern ideals. Enthralled by the world of our great predecessors, I shed my insecurities for the valiance of old wisdom, and fueled by Mr. David’s words, I immersed myself in the grammatical and cultural intricacies of a language I came to love.

“Latin is everywhere. You just have to learn how to see.”

Thanks to Mr. David, I found myself in a community bound as tight as family, where academia was a permeating atmosphere and ambition led to a fulfillment deeper than numbers on a transcript. I joined the Certamen team, and in the thrill of being fast on the buzzer, I discovered a competitive fire that I never knew existed. Encouraged by Mr. David’s unfaltering confidence, I was no longer the timid sophomore from the first day of Latin 1; I was a growing presence, bolstered by the academic zeal he had inspired. As a coach and a mentor, Mr. David did far more for me than instill a deep-seated respect for the Classics – he lent direction to my own scattered ambitions, and gave me the courage, finally, to pursue them.

I have often tried and failed to pinpoint how Mr. David strikes wonder so easily into his students. As the years passed, I settled on one obvious answer: nobody believes in students as much as Mr. David believes in his. To Mr. David, education has always been about far more than passing a series of classes – it is about igniting the zeal that is hidden in every scholar, and fostering an insatiable hunger to learn. When I was a sophomore, shrouded in self-doubt, Mr. David believed in me, and I am grateful every day for the person I am because of it. Now, three years later, I still hear Mr. David’s booming voice sometimes from down the hallway, lifting someone else from the mire.

“Latin is everywhere,” he is usually saying. “You just have to learn how to see.”

(Submitted to New America Media)

Voc Ed Teacher Parlays School Into Career Opportunity
Winner, Teacher in Memory Category
Profile of Yunette Hudson by Crissandra Maddox Miller

It was the beginning of my senior year in high school and after 12 years I was eager to cross the graduation line. As I registered for my last few classes, my guidance counselor informed me that I needed to take an elective to satisfy my graduation requirements. We went through the list and the few that were available were not that interesting. It came down to a choice between Marketing/Distributive Education and Woodshop. For a girl that carried a clutch purse since the third grade, Woodshop was definitely out. So I grudgingly signed up for Marketing/Distributive Education.

On the first day of this new class I took the long walk from the academic building over to the vocational building. How embarrassing! While I had been labeled as ‘gifted’ most of my academic career, I had not been a stellar student. Now I had to pay the price. While my friends were rushing off to AP History and AP Physics I was creeping over to spend time in the ‘VOCATIONAL’ building.

As I entered the classroom and took my seat I tried to think of the ‘good’ that would come of this class. It would only be for a few months. I would only have to go to classes for half a day and I could earn some extra pocket money for college in the fall.

So there I sat waiting for class to begin and then she walked in. MS. YUNETTE HUDSON. It is often said that first impressions are lasting impressions. I will never forget. She made an entrance. No polyester pants and sensible shoes for this teacher. She wore a wrap dress and sling back high heels. Her smile was warm and friendly, but her manner and the pencil tucked behind her ear said ‘all business’.

“The main lesson she taught her students was how to work.”

For 12 years I had learned the standards of reading, writing and arithmetic with a few extra’s like typing and data entry thrown in for good measure. However, Ms. Hudson took my educational experience to a new level. She connected the dots and helped me understand that with all of the education that I had received and would receive I would need to parlay that into a career opportunity.

She taught the basics of searching for a job, preparing your resume, dressing for an interview, workplace skills and etiquette. By the end of the first few classes I had secured my part time job. I happened to get the ‘plumb’ job of working at a clothing store at the local mall. Ms. Hudson would not only go over topics in the classroom, but she would visit your workplace and talk to your manager to see if you were on task or needed additional coaching.

Today, over twenty-five years later, as the recipient of a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree I can truly say this was the best class I have ever taken. Ms. Hudson taught me so many valuable life skills. In essence, the main lesson she taught her students was ‘How to
Work’.

I cherish the opportunity provided by this contest, because I have wanted to say THANK YOU to Ms. Hudson for many years. Sadly, I believe that she has passed away. However each time I receive a performance review I try to pay her back just a little. In over 25 years of working, I have always received the review of Excellent or Superior. Now that’s teaching that lasts a lifetime!

(Submitted to the Atlanta Daily World)