Celebrating Teacher-Mentors in Orlando, Florida
Amidst a sea of young adult books, language arts textbooks, and teachers from all parts of Florida, two English teachers sat down for conversations with the mentor-professors who trained them in graduate school. They came to record their stories for StoryCorps’ National Teachers’ Initiative, which celebrates the brilliant and courageous work of teachers around the country. StoryCorps partnered with the Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE) to record for two days at its annual conference in Orlando, Florida.
Cari L. Sadler, who had just completed her seventh week as a teacher, interviewed Joan F. Kaywell, her professor at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Education. Joan told Cari about her relationship with her mentor, Ted Hipple, and described the Ted Hipple Young Adult Literature Collection, a collection of autographed YA books that she started to honor Ted after his death. Cari pointed out that Joan honors Ted the most by passing onto her students the support and respect that he gave to her. Cari confessed that while Joan intimidated her early on, she is now inspired to maintain academic rigor by Joan’s example and teaching.
Later that day, Jeffrey N. Golub was interviewed by his former student, Michael J. Vokoun. While Jeffrey has retired from his teaching position at the USF College of Education and now lives across the country in Washington, he attends the FCTE conference every year to support his former students. Jeffrey always pushed his students to attend conferences because of his own positive experiences there as a young teacher. Jeffrey remembered his first years attending teachers’ conferences in the 1970s, when he and other young teachers slept on the floor of their mentor’s hotel room to save money.
Michael confirmed that Jeffrey’s insistence has paid off – he published a book that was based on a talk that Jeffrey encouraged him to give at a National Council of Teachers of English meeting. Michael also told Jeffrey how honored he was when, after his retirement, Jeffrey shared his file cabinet of teaching materials with him. Jeffrey replied that he felt confident sharing the materials because Michael had evolved as a teacher to a point where he could effectively use any materials he encountered there.
Michael also remembered what it was like to study at USF under both Jeffrey and Joan. While Joan was known for her very specific grading requirements, Jeffrey says his only requirement was that students “do the work and do it well.” This combination of teaching and grading styles, Michael says, “was a great experience-they played off of each other.”