Written October 8, 2013.
I just found out that my English teacher from High School passed away in late September. I am absolutely saddened by this news. Some will say, “Come on, you’re 45 years old,” or “that was so long ago.” Not to me. This woman shaped my world for decades. It’s because of Carole of how I am today as a writer. She was amazing. Here is why.
I didn’t think I was capable of taking an Honors English class in high school. I didn’t think that I was worth it. I thought I am not smart enough to compete with the cool, rich kids. I always felt that I was on the “other side” of Campus Commons or American River Drive. I came from a background of “hell and back” and gambling. Who would bother paying attention to this girl? Not worthy. I signed up anyway. I heard great things about this class so, hell why not? If I stink, she’s the only who sees my grade. Not the rich kids.
She welcomed me with open arms. She challenged me as a student. She thought that I was brilliant when my parents thought my writings were “out there,” or “unimaginative.” She pushed me to be the writer I am now. She always told me privately to not be afraid to write what is right, what is true and strikes my heart. I begged her to take her class for four year running and she cut me off after year two. I thrived on her recognition and dreaded her red pen. I became nauseated with it, but became addicted to it at the same time. This woman was hardcore. She told me exactly what I needed to do to write a great paper. Research or personal.
I recall a time when I was being teased in High School. I came to her personally because I had NO ONE to turn to. Not my parents – too self-absorbed. Not my sisters, they were ten and twelve years younger than me. I had no one. She ultimately said this, “You have the ability to make your experiences your story.” She told me it would make me a strong, determined young woman. She was 100% right. To this day, I hear her say these words.
I write this with a very heavy heart. She was the very first person who believed in my writing, stories and ultimately gave a damn about this 16 year old girl from Sacramento. I am forever indebted to her excellent UC Berkeley education and her kindness. I wish all teachers were like her. When that book from hell that I am writing is done….it’s dedicated to her. She made me the writer that I am. Sigh…it’s just so sad.
Rest in Ms. Takeuchi. We loved you.
Class of 1986, Encina High School.