If I could turn back time’s clock for just a brief span I’d love to share a particular moment. I believe I was sixteen, in my bell bottom Levi jeans with embroidered bells on this day that I recall so very well. Then as now I had long hair although as a teenager I wore it loose and free more often than today when I’m likely to have it swept up into a bun for simplicity. The Neosho High School halls I moved through during an average school day were not so different than some of the halls today and the English hall – as it is now known – remains unchanged.
As a sophomore I spent more than one period in Room 20 for both composition and literature classes. Even then I scribbled stories, a few poems, and essays. Most were for my own enjoyment and I was more than a little shy about sharing at the time. Mr. Gary Sims was one of my favorite teachers, both as an English instructor but also just as one of my top teachers. Somehow he came across to classes and to me as more “real” than some of the other faculty members. He understood how we thought in a way that many adults didn’t seem to do at the time and he understood that if we wore faded blue jeans or worn out shoes, we weren’t necessarily bad kids without a future. He saw through our facades and our teen attitudes into our hearts.
I wrote a lot of compositions in sophomore English that year but when our assignment was to write a descriptive essay about a person, I decided to write about my Granny. I poured out my heart into that assignment, using the best descriptive terms I could conjure up and turned it in. Once done, I didn’t think much about it until a few days later when Mr. Sims announced he wanted to read one of the essays to the class. I figured it would be someone else’s until he read that first line and I recognized it as mine. My heart pounded harder as I struggled not to blush tomato red and failed. I stared down at my desk, excited and pleased and yet almost afraid what the class might think when he told them who wrote it. His calm voice read my words aloud and gave them power. The class grew silent long before he finished and at the end, he asked if they could guess who wrote it. Several names got tossed out but no one mentioned me.
Mr. Sims told them who wrote it and praised me. His smile melted away my bashfulness for a moment and when he handed back the papers, I saw my grade – 100% “A” with his comment, “Beautifully written!” That paper hangs on the wall of my little office corner today as a reminder of his encouragement and inspiration. Although Mr. Sims was not the only teacher in either high school or college to encourage my writing, his impact hit me hardest. His praise came first and it reached through my prickly teenage skin to touch me. Because he believed in me, I began to learn to believe in myself as a writer. He made me believe I just might become a writer one day. That one essay wasn’t the only time Mr. Sims offered up a word or two to keep me going.
Although Mr. Sims passed away some years ago, when I sat down to write the dedication for my latest novel, Witness Protection Program that came out from Rebel Ink Press on Monday, I knew just who I wanted to dedicate this work to – Mr. Sims.
This is the dedication:
For the late Gary Sims, my high school English teacher who knew I could write long before I did and who encouraged me in every way. This one's for you, Mr. Sims.
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