My English teacher, Karyn Kay, died this morning. My friend Roy told me the news. I didn’t know what to think or how I felt about it. I was in shock, to be sure. She was only 63, younger than both my parents.
One of the thoughts that went through my head was, I still have my creative writing notebook from Ms. Kaye’s 11th grade creative writing class.
If I close my eyes, I can feel what it felt like to sit in a chair desk, the kind that were both chair and desk combined. I can imagine the room full of 29 students, Ms. Kaye petite and slender, dark red lipstick on her pursed lips, sitting at the front of the classroom nodding as Maria read her poem aloud to the entire class.
Ms. Kaye’s eyes were small, but pensive. She was listening. My heart pounded, thinking I could volunteer to read my story, but I didn’t feel like I was good enough. The other 28 students in the class were far more talented.
But there was something about Ms. Kaye that made me feel safe. She made me feel like I could raise my hand. I could share something of myself. My heart began to race as my hand slowly crept up. Ms. Kaye and I locked eyes, and she nodded at me:
I read my story aloud to class, wondering what she would think. Occasionally I looked up trying to gauge her expression. I knew she was listening.
Thank you, Karyn Kaye for believing in me. Thank you for creating an environment where we could feel free enough to express ourselves as 16 year-olds going through one of the most difficult times in our lives.
Thank you for inspiring young writers to continue writing.
A great woman died today.
She will be missed.