Words about me, in my role as a member of a boarding school faculty, from several of my former students:
Nearly a decade after leaving teaching, I was surfing the net; I Googled my name, and lo and behold, this is what I found on the last page of dozens of pages of cites about Peter Stinsons from around the world: an answer to "Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?" This is a very difficult question because I had a lot of great teachers. I would have to say Peter Stinson from Wyoming Seminary. He was an English teacher for my 11th and 12th grade classes in various subjects. Basically, I was rapidly dying because of my hatred of life from public school and I acted out quite a bit. One thing he did was instead of writing me off, he took the time to emphasize my positive traits and to try to get me to believe in myself. I won't say that he performed a miracle and made me completely adjusted, but he did get me to actually start not hating, if not enjoying life. I feel that he is the reason that I became so interested in writing.
Another former student, writing several years after leaving my classroom, noted in a reference letter: Teaching is a great deal more than training people to parrot back information or giving them formulas for a great essay. I think that a great teacher is one who instills a feeling for worth in a student, who sees an inclination towards learning and gently directs, who takes the time to see each member of his class as an individual, and who can share his love of learning, of reading, of research, of discovery with his students. Mr. Stinson did all of those things with me and I will be forever grateful to him.
A third student, who has since returned to Wyoming Seminary as a member of the English faculty and drama department, wrote: All of the roles which Peter Stinson has assumed are marked by a deep personal commitment to both the activity involved and to the students in it... As a theatrical director, he excelled in taking and using what his actors had to offer; he preferred discussing choices with actors over autonomously giving them direction. And each of the Stinson productions I was a part of was filled with a strong sense of ensemble conducive to expanding artistic freedom and discovery.... In all the offices in which I have observed Peter Stinson, a common passion for learning, creativity, and humanity has been present... And it is outside the classroom that I have learned the most from Peter Stinson. As a person, and a friend, he has taught me a great deal about self-confidence, integrity, and compassion.
Controlled mayhem: fun in the classroom (Winter 1993)
A night of delectable sushi in Seattle with a former student (Spring 2009).
Written on my Facebook "wall" in January 2009 by another former student: Coach !! You know, when times get tough, I often think back to lacrosse practice and remember what I'm capable of. Suck it up! That's a powerful thing, and it's something you showed me at Sem. I know other guys who were on the team feel the same. I still draw from that source today when I'm getting crushed by a black belt at the ol' Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy or when I'm just plain frustrated and ready to give up on something. Thanks for that.
Wrote another former student, now a teacher in New York City, on Facebook (2009): I remember fondly how you and your wife used to invite us kids up to your apartment for fiction/poetry readings. How I loved those! . . .You guys were very kind to have us kids up there and to take us seriously. I don't know about others, but I felt very special being able to go there. And I loved sharing my writing. . . . thanks for always inspiring us.
And yet another former student wrote on my Facebook wall, also in 2009: You will never know how much you influenced me as my teacher. I owe you a debt of gratitude that is truly immeasurable.
Aside from the 2nd and 3rd quotes, these are all totally unsolicited.
Sometimes I've wondered if my life has had a positive impact on those around me. I've always said you can't tell how you are as a parent until you meet your grandchildren. Same thing goes for teaching: want to know how good you are, what sort of an impact you've actually made? Well, you need to wait around a while.
Did I make a difference as a teacher? I think so. And, just as assuredly, I'll make a difference in the years to come.