There are moments in one’s past that stand the test of time. They shine while all the rest muddies. They remain as beacons which illuminate all your future achievements. Sometimes you know in advance, other times it is only in reflection, but those moments grow roots throughout your life and cannot be disentangled from who you are, ever. Receiving my MA from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English is such a moment for me. One for which I read and wrote and thought and worked harder than anything to reach. Of course there are many people who steered me to that pinnacle, but there was one woman who did so through her own extraordinary passion to enliven and enrich the learning of every student, whether we were in her classroom or for those in classrooms we would return to in the fall, she supported me to be my own teacher-researcher, to gather my own anecdotes, all in the service of being a better teacher. This notion seemed novel at first, the idea that a teacher could guide herself and use her own students’ feedback in such an endeavor, but Dixie Goswami’s commitment empowered me more than any educational program I had been in before, or since, and continues to direct my practice even now, two decades later.
May is a month of commencement speeches and graduation parties and time to reflect on how far you have come since your own such celebrations. Still, there is nothing like physically returning to your alma mater where you studied ad infinitum through the night, prayed the printer worked 15 minutes before class, made best friends by lucky circumstance and earned every drop of ink on your diploma. For me, last weekend’s fortuitous return to Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English recreated powerful emotions and rich memories from my four remarkable summers earning a master’s degree in English there.