2007-2008, my freshman year of high school at a brand new school in a new zone where I knew nobody, I had an English 1 teacher named Mrs. Deville. She was a very eccentric lady, with a laugh that even a gremlin would love. She was obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe, and by the time I got to her class I had already read through a book of his works. I had never met a teacher that actually loved Poe as much as I did. In fact, most teachers would grimace when I would mention that he was my favorite writer.
She had this way of making complex works of literature make complete sense. She was perfect at making everything relevant so that we understood what was going on. She even had a Shakespearean Insult class, where we would go through and talk about the insults throughout Shakespeare's works. When it came to creative writing, she was The Queen. As our final project, she made everyone create a creative writing portfolio. She encouraged all of us to be ourselves through our writings. She didn't want to see some made up, flowery language. She was ok with curse words in our writings, because after all, they are modern ways to express strong emotions in writing. My portfolio was delightfully demented of course, full of vampires, zombies, dying lovers, and my emo side. She loved it, and I ended up making her a copy.
Mrs. Deville pushed us all to think about literature differently, but she also made us see ourselves and helped us realize that we are beautiful no matter what. This really helped me when I came out at gay three years later. Unfortunately, her cancer that she was silently fighting when she taught me metastasized and took her in 2010. Every time I pick up a pen and write something, I think of her and the look in her eyes when she would read Poe to us, or when she was dissecting a great work of literature with us.
She was the most influential teacher I ever had, and to this day she inspires me to be myself. I know she would be proud of who I have become, and I hope she enjoys my writings as I travel for graduate school!