Mrs. June Dirks – Southeast High School – Wichita, KS

There was this teacher, when I was a high school senior, who took writing and literature seriously. She frequently mentioned titles of literary fiction she was reading—titles that went onto my own reading list. One day another English teacher told me that I couldn’t use the word “humongous” because it didn’t exist. I asked Mrs. Dirks what she thought. While we wrote in class, she leafed through dictionaries. Hours later, she tracked me down in another class and handed me a notecard with the definition of the word “humongous” and a list of source information. Her view that reading and words mattered made a deep impression on me. I wanted to grow up to be like her, and after seeing a recent story about her running a half-marathon at the age of 87, I still do.

–Nancy McCabe

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