A letter to: Ms Yates, Yr 12 English

Dear Ms Yates,

{I never even knew your first name.}

{Sorry: your CHRISTIAN name. Always the stickler for details and accuracy.}

First of all: you really scared the crap out of me, you know that?

I’m sure it was deliberate and looking back it wasn’t even scary, but I was already wondering if I had bit off more than I could chew by doing the higher level of English and you were so dry and so nonplussed and so damn BRITISH that I thought that you thought we were all just a bunch of idiots. I remember your pained expression when someone would state the obvious. You wanted us to dazzle you, and I know now that that’s why you pushed us all.

The reason I remember you at all is because you interested me. You seemed like a character out of an old play: the spinsterish old {old} maid who seemed to have no sense of humour at all, and was forced against her wishes to try and educate a bunch of neanderthals. You rolled your eyes more than the students did and gave no false praise ever, but I sensed that you had such a great and passionate love of books and reading, but were perhaps a bit tarnished by so many years of trying to open stubborn young minds.

But open my mind you did.

Some of the things you said, some of the ideas you presented, were so outrageously daring and shocking. You didn’t speak to us like other teachers did, you spoke to us like you knew we were smarter than we believed and your face when we would reach those heights was the most priceless and rare of rewards. Some of the best memories in that last year were of doing well in your class, because I knew how much you expected of us. Where another teacher might have awarded me an A you would have given a C. So earning my best marks in your class was more about how good a teacher you were rather than how smart I was. You made me want to be brilliant at English.

And it’s for that reason that I remember you today. You had seen so many girls come and go, but your love of words was still so apparent. Nothing could make you crankier than one of using the wrong grammar or punctuation {heaven forbid}, you taught us how Shakespeare is actually supposed to be read and suddenly the stories all made perfect sense.

You frowned so much more than you smiled and I would shudder if you read my blogs these days but thank you for pushing me back then. Thank you for passing on the beauty of words, the idea that using them effectively is powerful stuff, and for being such a stickler for the details.

I think that teachers must often wonder about some of their students long after they have graduated, and in turn there are some teachers that affect us in such an important way that we never forget them. So while there are so many more funny stories about Mr Mizzi in Maths class or Mr Brown in Computer Studies and his penchant for throwing chairs at students, it is you who affected me the most. You were the only one who made me want to aim higher, and it’s no coincidence that my results in English were my best by far.

So thank you.

And please don’t read any of my other posts.



{You actually taught me for three years, from 10 to 12. I was the quiet girl with the enormous brown eyes and frizzy hair who was always scared to answer a question and risk your eye-rolling dismay. Even though I was right a lot of the time. And honestly? Sometimes my answers were even better than the ones given.}

{Sorry for starting sentences with the words ‘and’ and ‘because’.}




  1. I love this letter! I had a teacher like that! She was amazing her name is Denise Rayner. She pushed us all to want to do better and be better. The saddest part of all for me that is not Mrs Rayner was that after 13 miscarriages her and her husband were approved to adopt a baby girl from South Korea (back in 1984), then out of absolutely nowhere, they fell pregnant with another (what turned out to be daughter), which mean that Mrs Rayner couldn’t be with her husband as they were given their daughter in Sth Korea because she was 8mths pg.

    Mr Rayner had just arrived home with about an 8wk old daughter when they miraculously added another daughter to their family. I only had her for two years 1983-84. She inspired me to want to be a teacher (which I eventually trained in). She never taught after her daughters were born and left to be a fulltime mum. She was so strict but at the same time everything we learnt was so engaging I loved the strictness of her classes.

    On letters I listened to a podcast this morning on my walk. It is a Liz Gilbert Big Magic one called Dear Fear & Creativity. It is just a short 18mins but it was great! You might like it for your letter series xoxo


    1. I love that story about your teacher, she sounds like she was amazing. And I’ll have to get with the program and check out some podcasts!

      Thanks for reading. X.


  2. Ana, you’ve made me cry!! This was so beautiful and I well written. Great first letter to start your new series with 🙂 xo


    1. Aw thanks hun. The funny thing is that she always seemed so cranky but obviously left her mark! X.


  3. What a wonderful letter you’ve written and shared about this teacher- I wish she could read it. There are a couple of teachers whose lessons have stuck with me to this day as well and some should teachers that shoul never be allowed in a room with children or allowed to teach at all, I am grateful for the special ones.

    I think that this teacher would be proud of you, she would have to be.


    1. You know what, I actually think she has passed away. I have no way of finding out but I do remember hearing something years ago.

      Bless the teachers who make a difference, but too many are just there for the pay cheque unfortunately.


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