Anyely (Angie) Gomez-Dickerson fell in love with her first book in middle school at the age of twelve. Her school library had organized a fundraiser to sell discarded novels for pennies. As she roamed the hallway outside the library, weaving in and out of the rows of bookcases, she spotted the book that would start a lifetime love affair with characters and stories. Angie spent her last 39 cents on a tattered paperback with yellowed pages and vent cover. Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary set her on the path to a lifetime of reading. After the first page she never looked back.
Angie is a Cuban immigrant with over twenty years of teaching experience currently working on writing endeavors that empower WOMEN and other marginalized groups to give VOICE to those suffering the inequities and inequalities of our world. Following in the footsteps of some of her favorite authors, she is focused on creating strong Boss Bitches as role models for Latinas, black, brown, and indigenous young women everywhere. She hopes to share the bitter and the sweet (that comes from a life of struggle) one delicious story at a time, as she fuses Cuban food, cultural identity, and hope.
Angie’s latest project – a contemporary YA titled Anatomy of a Desert Wildflower – is currently looking for a publishing home. In this journey, readers meet Poppy Summers, unless she’s going by her actual name, Paulina Falcón, or just Lina. This half Cuban, half Mexican, eighteen-year-old hasn’t quite figured out who she is yet, but is forced to navigate a dangerous world when she runs away from home with only the contents of her escape bag. Raised in Hatch, Utah by a violent Cuban father and a vengeful mother who takes her rage out on her two daughters, Lina is desperate for a way out.
As a runaway, Lina’s narrative depicts a diverse set of challenges, from her struggles with identity growing up in a half Cuban, half Mexican Mormon household, to her fierce determination to escape abusive parents and save her little sister from a terrible fate.
Anatomy of a Desert Wildflower also explores multi-cultural and multi-generational relations with an intimate look at Lina’s friendship with Tía Alba. This, and other relationships, allow the protagonist to solidify bonds that stretch across different cultures and ages. It highlights the strength of friendship despite our differences. This novel allows readers to dive into a myriad of challenges with hope scattered along the way. Physical abuse at the hands of her parents, death in her family, and a brush with sexual assault, are among some of the trauma Lina must survive.
Between contemporary YA projects, Angie likes to delve into the fantasy realm while incorporating her love of all-things 80’s (which she believes – unapologetically – is the best decade ever). Her latest fantasy is set in a small New England fishing town in the 1980’s.
October Rose and the Shadow Prophecy, is a complete work of YA fantasy. It is the first in a series with other titles underway like, October Rose and the Secret of Shipwreck Island, and the third installment, October Rose and the Curse of Sapphire City. The story of October Rose is a fusion of the 1985 Goonies blockbuster and the PG-13 version of the betrayal at the center of A Discovery of Witches, all set in a forbidden forest filled with misadventure.
In a forgotten corner of Darkwood Forest, a thirteen-year-old boy sits in a cabin by a window. Watching. Waiting. He’s hoping the evil won’t return. But the evil is already there. An evil he mistakenly released but is defenseless against.
A mile away, in the small town of Winterhaven, October Rose sits by a window of an inn-turned-orphanage. Watching. Waiting. But she doesn’t know what she’s waiting for. October craves a different life. She wants to believe there is more out there for her. But everything about her appearance, from her broad freckled nose, fiery red curls, and orphaned status makes her special. A painful term more synonymous with freak than just being unusual or unique. And although the girl ignores the small-minded townspeople, what is haunting October Rose is a string of debilitating migraines, dizzy spells, and terrifying visions of a burning forest. These remnants from her thirteenth birthday just days before have her questioning her entire life and her purpose in it. The girl is also battling an inexplicable sense of loss, as if something that had always been there, something important, had suddenly disappeared without a trace.
Making matters worse, is the pull from the cursed Darkwood Forest nearby. A pull October Rose can no longer ignore. A place that will soon solidified her purpose, and set her on a collision course with forces she doesn’t understand.
With a few nights before Hallows Eve, the town’s sheriff lacks answers to the unexplained deaths of men from prominent families found mysteriously crushed in their beds. As time runs out, Miss Luna, October’s guardian, must finally tell the girl the truth about her past. She must explain how October is connected to the horrifying events. After the initial shock, October Rose must forge new alliances and fight the evil threatening them. But first she must accept her inherited powers if she is to defeat the Winter Shadow in a battle that will pit sister against brother, and Light versus Shadow, in a fight for the future of Winterhaven. But October must master the art of shadow magic in order to face an unimaginable villain intent on vengeance and destruction.
Another of Angie’s YA novels from 2020 is TOXIC – the story of Yanelís – a strong Cuban girl who finds she must fight the toxic masculinity in her school and her own life after a run-in with two boys at school who claim they “accidentally” bumped into her. Things spin out of control when administrators refuse to believe her side of the story or even investigate the boys’ misconduct.
Unfortunately, Angie is aware issues and injustices like toxic masculinity and racial inequality tend to trend (and like in all industries – publishing often highlights that which is currently a “hot” topic) and as the #MeToo movement fades into the past for many people, despite the need to continue to shed light on it, the novel, TOXIC is currently struggling to find a home. But, Angie is certain with perseverance, her Yanelís will find a much-needed platform for her narrative of courage.
Angie is grateful that after more than twenty-two years as an English teacher, she made her fiction dreams a reality by self-publishing her DEBUT NOVEL, FRIENDS AT FORTY (on her birthday, of all days, back in April 6 of 2016 at the young age of 44). She quickly got to work on the sequel to her debut, completing her second novel, FRIENDS AT SEA. These writing-exercises-turned-novels are littered with autobiographical tidbits from her life and marriage. Since being demoted to empty nester after twenty-six years of raising three wonderful children, Angie writes what she knows and loves best, the misadventures of WOMANHOOD and the setbacks and growing pains (even as an adult).
Her first two novels tackle the reality of what happens to a marriage after being weighed down by years of spousal congeniality and exhaustive parenting. It asks difficult questions: What can a couple do when they discover they want different things? Is friendship enough to save a marriage in trouble? What is the role of romance and passion for a forty-something couple after decades in a practical partnership?
Friends at Sea is the emotional continuation of Friends at Forty. Sam and Daniel are a marriage in trouble facing the reality of who they were, who they’ve become, who they are together and apart, but most importantly, who they want to be. This duology is for anyone who’s ever been lost and needed to be found again.
The 3rd installment of the Friends series, Friends in Paris is in her queue (as an autobiographical account of her travels) where she’ll share the magic of walking the boulevards and historic bridges in the City of Light, and other (often painful) misadventures of traveling as a couple with teenagers in tow.
She has also completed her first heartwarming romance novel in a series called, Sweetly Ever After. The first novel in the series is Once Upon a Cupcake Shop.
Visit Her Author Page at: ANGIE DICKERSON
Read the Friends series interviews & reviews!
Angie’s first romance novel, ONCE UPON A CUPCAKE SHOP (in the Sweetly Ever After series):
Twenty-nine-year-old mother and widow, Viviana Castillo, loves baking. It makes her happy. But her happiness is stolen when her husband dies in a car crash. Viv and her baby, Olivia, move in with best friend, Diana. Viviana learns to heal and is back at work as assistant baker. But, with Olivia turning seven, Viv wants a home for her daughter. When Olivia goes away for the summer, Viviana takes a risk and applies for a home loan. The morning of her meeting with the loan officer, a rainstorm pours down as Viv exits the 34th Street station and bumps into handsome, twenty-something, Quinten Carpenter holding his jacket open, offering her cover. Viv accepts shelter from the storm. When her loan is denied, she bumps into Quinten again. As renovation specialist, he proposes a business venture—Viviana’s own cupcake shop. Business turns to friendship and love. But a case of mistaken identity threatens their future. Quinn must win back her trust to secure their happy-ever-after.
Friends at Sea continues the Samantha and Daniel Blake journey just six weeks after the end of Friends at Forty (Book 1 in the series). They have accepted an invitation to spend three weeks at sea on the luxurious and opulent Sapphire of the Seas cruise ship. As the troubled couple enjoy VIP accommodations and engage in the ship’s games and excursions, they make new discoveries about their marriage, their future and each other. This is a cautionary tale about what happens when it seems too late to go back home. It’s a tale of fine dining, trendy cocktails, Zen masters, spa days and excitingly dangerous ports-of-call, as the couple explores Cabos San Lucas, Panama City and the historic city of Cartagena, Colombia.
*SPOILER ALERT: an excerpt of Friends at Sea
Samantha stood barefoot at the edge of the path admiring the grandeur of The Sapphire of the Seas. The middle and upper decks were littered with people exploring the ship but Sam found it unnerving that the massive floating hotel would be home to over 3,000 passengers for the next three weeks. She became anxious. What if she needed space? What if she needed to get away from it all? She was notorious for needing lots of breathing room when things didn’t work out in her favor. How could she have put herself in a position to be trapped on board with no where to run? She wasn’t even a good swimmer.
The sea breeze and passing chatter of the work crew interrupted the beginnings of her panic attack but she still questioned her choice to join Cassandra, Lee and the others on this seafaring adventure to the Caribbean. Sam had not seen her husband, in over six weeks and she felt more than apprehension, she was down right scared to see Daniel again. What would she say? How would she explain that she was far from figuring things out?
FRIENDS AT FORTY Featured on Linda’s Book Bags
5-STAR Amazon Review: “This book is a must read, started…skimming and next thing I know an hour has gone by and I’m completely entrenched. Can’t wait to get my hands on the paper copy and reading more books written by the author.”
My debut novel, FRIENDS at FORTY is a tale of fine dining, Zen masters, Magic 8-Balls and the inexplicable bond that holds a marriage together even as it ruptures at the seams: friendship. – – What if you had the opportunity to reinvent yourself after a lifetime shackled to parenthood but didn’t know what you wanted or even who you were anymore? When empty nesters, Samantha and Daniel Blake, move into their loft in L.A.’s hip Historic Core it is in search of a new lifestyle—an attempt to stabilize their marriage weighed down by decades of spousal congeniality and exhaustive parenting but when new alliances surface, tensions mount as the couple is tested by an overdose of their “new normal.” Ultimately, Samantha is forced to make her most difficult choice: will she sacrifice her marriage in order to find herself or will she continue to trail aimlessly behind Daniel and live an uninspiring life? This story is for anyone who’s ever been lost and felt the need to be found again.
See full review of Friends at Forty by Teresa:
“Everything is fine. Nothing feels right.”
“Samantha and Daniel Blake are married and have two children, the youngest having just left for university. After finding themselves alone, with no children to look after they decide to move into a new building, somewhere in midtown Los Angeles. The change in scenery is the beginning of Samantha and Daniel Blake’s second act, an act meant to bestow upon them a universe of ravishing reviews, perhaps even a standing ovation. The audience is on their feet, their hands are meeting one another in apparent bliss… but why is there no sound?
“After shedding all those coats, what was left behind was a confused, scared and lonely forty-something woman named Samantha, who she had never taken the time to know.”
Samantha was always someone’s something. She was her parents’ daughter, then Daniel’s wife, and then another layer was added once she became someone’s mother. Having met her husband-to-be while still at university, Samantha never had, at least not the time, to figure herself out. Now, with her children gone and her husband half-distracted by his income-proving job, she finds herself… lost.
I would say that Friends at Forty by Angie Dickerson is, first and foremost, a novel about life changes. At the start, Samantha and Daniel seem to recover from the earthquake of transformation in a gentle way, but the replicas kept coming and shaking the roots, which were buried long ago in wet sand mistaken for cement. Everything then seems to start falling apart, and rather chaotically too.
Even though I enjoyed the premise…this is indeed an introduction of sorts, the beginning of what is meant to be a saga, but it feels too floaty, too… out of nowhere (would love more background & a sense of history). I liked these characters and wanted to know them on a more intimate level.
I understand Samantha’s mood swings, I understand that she’s meant to come across as lovably. Annoying, even the clichés that surround her journey made sense to me. Daniel however…and his reactions to other women… Perhaps that was the whole point though, perhaps we are supposed to jump into Samantha’s shoes and see, feel, the surroundings through her eyes–the confusion. Still… I can’t quite put my finger on it…because there are moments of complete and utter joy and abundant laughter. The way food is described, for example, is almost sinful, as well as the way the different atmospheres, and the transitions between them, are painted.
All in all, I would…call it entertaining.”
Reviewed by Teresa from Whispering Stories
“I received a free copy of book in exchange for an honest review”
THE FRIENDS AT FORTY BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS:
There are no words to express the utter and complete happiness an author feels when readers hold their book in their hands. These wonderful ladies agreed to take FRIENDS AT FORTY for a test-drive & will soon give me the real currency of authors: honest feedback. Here’s to them enjoying the ride!!!
Questions for FRIENDS AT FORTY:
1. How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately, or did it take you a while to” get into it”? How did you feel reading it—amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored…?
2. Are the main characters engaging—personality traits, motivations, and inner qualities?
• Were Samantha’s goals & motivations clear?
• Are her actions justified?
• Describe the dynamics between characters (in the
marriage and/or friendship).
• How has their present situation or current life changes shaped their lives?
• Do you admire or disapprove of them?
• Can you emphasize or connect with them?
3. Are the main characters dynamic—changing or maturing by the end of the book? Do they learn about themselves, how the world works and their role in it?
4. Discussing the plot:
• Is it engaging—do you find the story interesting?
• Is this a plot-driven book—a fast-paced page-turner?
• Does the plot unfold slowly with a focus on character?
• Were you surprised by complications, twists & turns?
• Did you find the plot predictable, even formulaic?
5. What main ideas—themes—does the author explore? (Consider the title, often a clue to a theme.) Does the author use metaphor to reinforce the ideas?
6. What passages strike you as insightful, even profound? Perhaps a bit of dialog that’s funny or poignant or that encapsulates a character?
7. Is the ending satisfying? If so, why? If not, why not…and how would you change it? Have you learned something new or been exposed to different perspectives about people or a certain aspect of life?
8. If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? Have you read other books by the same author? If so how does this book compare. If not, does this book inspire you to read others?
Thank you in advance for test-driving my debut novel,
You can read Angie’s interview here OR visit Lisette’s Writers’ Chateau on Twitter
Is your recent book part of a series?
My debut novel, Friends at Forty, is the first in the Friends series. It starts with a marriage in trouble after they inherit the painful role of empty nesters. The series is not to be confused with a trilogy. I have designed it so each book stands on its own without the need to read them chronologically. These will be the misadventures of married life, family ups and downs and much more. I am currently 40% through book 2 in the series titled, Friends at Sea. In this second book, Samantha and Daniel pack their marriage troubles and head for the high seas. The entire book takes place on a luxury cruise ship and has exciting ports-of-call adventures, as the couple continues their journey.
What are the challenges with writing a series?
The worst part about writing a series, at least at a fast pace and without the perks of an agent, professional editing team or publisher, is that I have had very little feedback from the first book from readers. I am lucky to have a couple of wonderful book clubs reading my novel right now, but as I continue to wrap things up with book 2, I have to be confident that what I am delivering is what readers expect and will want to see from the next evolution for these two complex forty-somethings. But who knows? Maybe it’s all for the best that I don’t have lots of feedback. In that way I can just write the story the way I see it developing.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
The women’s fiction/chick lit genre absolutely choose me. I have many YA dystopian novels outlined and ready to go but this inexplicable attraction to flawed characters and marriage misadventures has a grip on me. I’m probably going to have to get countless of these women’s fiction novels out of my system before I even consider exploring other genres.
Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Every single character I create is autobiographical: based on someone I know well, someone I somewhat know, colleagues from my fourteen years in education, or my husband. The main characters are all mostly me: me on a bad day; me on a great day; me on my crazy; me at my best. The many faces of me.
If you were to advertise your writing life on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I must always write scenes in order otherwise I make a mess. I am horrible about continuity. My girl may be wearing a red cocktail dress and drinking a Margarita at the beginning of a scene and seconds later the drink magically morphed into a beer and she’s adjusting her jeans. Ouch! Yeah, no, I could never write out of sequence.
Is it important to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
Absolutely. I always outline. I had a creative writing professor who suggested that outlining can suck the creativity out of the narrative but I find without one my story meanders with little to objective or goal. I must know the main story arch. Now, once I start mashing those keys and scenes develop, “all is fair in love and war.” I don’t expect I’ll ever stop being surprise at the end of writing every chapter. They absolutely take on a life of their own while at the same time adhering to the big ideas, themes and story ending.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
Thanks to my loving, supportive and ever-present husband/in-house editor, I managed to finish my debut novel April 2016. I know were it up to me I would still be editing and revising and editing over and over and over. Yikes! I also need to thank Stephen King for his wise words as he reminds beginning authors to keep writing through “the crap” (I’m paraphrasing in other to keep it PG-13). Thank YOU Mr. King!
Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you?
Yes. I think every author does at some point. Mine came with every rejection notice I received from countless agents about how my main character was just not likable. Apparently, Samantha Blake is the forty-something, mother, wife and empty nester you’ll love to hate. I think if you are bothered by Sam, I have done my job because, honestly, we are all so very annoying, aren’t we? One recent review said: The main character was annoying and lovable all at the same time.
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
I would say: To save an author, readers must write reviews. On Amazon and Kindle. On Barnes & Noble. On the author’s web page. On Goodreads.com and similar blogger sites. On their Facebook page and other social media venues. Anywhere and everywhere the novel is listed. Review! Review! Review please!
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
At first, I was quite apprehensive and skeptical. But I read many expert articles suggesting any self-respecting author must be on Twitter, have a Facebook page, a professional-looking author website and be ever present on social media so I followed their advice. I can’t say enough great things about my experience with Twitter and the like. I was carefully to only “Follow” like-minded people who shared my passion for books and authors. This community has become an incredible asset for marketing. But the best thing isn’t what I get out of it but the great feeling you get when you can retweet another author’s work or novel and promote them. I always start my SM day by posting a reminder of the Twitter Author Challenge to promote three authors before you post—I’ve done it everyday and have quite a few “followers” turned “partners-in-crime” as we all help promote each other. The best of those examples is you featuring little-old-me on your site through this wonderful interview opportunity.
MUCH MUCH LONGER BIO:
*DISCLAIMER: Please be kind when reading some of the pieces below. Many go back twenty years–a lifetime ago–when my literary gift was still quite GREEN…this bio was sketched back when I was anticipating the beginning of another school year (and though I am no longer in the classroom, I guess I liked it enough to keep it).
In the Beginning…
Heavy rain streaks down the windowpane of the café. Waiting for my eggs Benedict, I stir packets of brown sugar into my latte and marvel over the beauty of the gray Autumn morning beyond the large windows facing the street. A school bus stuffed with eager children makes its way slowly through the heavy traffic and pelting cold drops. A young girl (no more than eleven) looks out from one of the foggy rear windows and smiles my way. A tender smile. The scene seems slow motion. I can instantly tell she loves school. I can envision her school bag stuffed to the brim with school supplies: a plastic pencil box with freshly sharpened no. 2 pencils, together with a self-contained sharpener (a bright yellow one to match her rain jacket and boots); a few packs of lined paper, binders, rulers, crayons, and black and white marbled composition notebooks; an extra change of clothes mom made her pack in a Ziplock (which she protested to—eleven was too old for accidents she tried reminding her mother) and then the crushed brown paper lunch of zucchini and cream cheese finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Once the green traffic light signals the driver, the bus takes a right as bright blinking flashes indicate the turn and the schoolgirl disappears behind the south corner of the red brick building that houses the coffee shop.
The Best Time of the Year…
When people ask me, what my favorite part of the year is, my answer always strikes everyone as bizarre. They expect my response to adhere to the few typical choices: holidays, birthdays, or Summer vacations. Still I hold my head high, shoulders proud, eyes focused and declare, “Fall is my favorite time of year because it marks the beginning of school.” After almost three decades knee-deep in the world of teaching and learning, I’m happy to discover that the first day of classes is still the most exciting for me. Before the trees begin their multicolored transformation from the deep green of Summer to the reds, oranges, yellows, and golden browns, I find myself walking the isles of office supply stores and booksellers. Before each carefully placed seat is filled with a new young face, I indulge in joys that seem specific only to me: the subtle invitations of unsharpened pencils, colored ink pens, and paper clips. The packs of paper demanding to be freed from their tightly wrapped plastic prisons and filled with short stories, quadratic formulas, diagrams, vocabulary quizzes and more. But there’s nothing in the world like the smell between the pages of a book. I often hold it up and take a deep breath into the crisp, newness of its bound sheets (peering over the top of the book to make certain no one catches me during this very personal act of lunacy). This aroma sends my imagination running through fields of old, forgotten fairytales, cherished stories, and memorable journeys alike. A good book can be better than a good friend. After all, when was the last time your friend whisked you away to a new undiscovered land filled with adventure and promises. When did they introduce you to great tragic heroes, or beautifully sad characters that beg to be remembered for all time.
It is this innate love for school and books that prompts me every Fall to continue in the field of education. But in retrospect, I realize that a set of five (or so) cataclysmic events have directly or indirectly shaped this development as well. Like a sculptor that chisels away at raw marble which starts to take form slowly through time, people and events have shaped this journey.
Leaving Fidel Castro Behind…
The first and most influential of these events took place during the summer of 1980, when I left my homeland of Cuba. My mother’s opposition to the Communist party made it impossible for us to carry out a peaceful life there. My mother and I left all family behind to come to the United States where we would find opportunities, freedom, and new friends. Instead we found scare employment possibilities, the lack of freedom that’s synonymous with lack of money, and a language barrier that destroyed all prospects of friendships for us both. My mother was a strong and stubborn woman (traits I have inherited by default). She continued to struggle for the sake of my future. As I got older she explained that in Cuba we would work an entire lifetime and have nothing to show for it. Back then I wasn’t clear on her point as I looked around and saw how little we had to show for her long days at work. She told me that in America the sacrifice of one generation was the success of the next. True freedom was rooted in the willingness to work hard. My mother cleaned hotel bathrooms, waited tables at a bar in Spanish Harlem, and traveled two hours every morning at five a.m. to a sticker factory in North Jersey. The two or three jobs she held were barely enough to make the rent and spare enough for eggs, bread, cereal, and milk (which became our staple diet). A regular Tuesday night dinner would be comprised of toast-no butter, imitation coco puffs with a spit of milk, and two tall glasses of water to help fill me up. A perfect meal to a child’s standards, but not enough nutrition or caloric intake to keep me awake during my early classes. I doubt my mom was educated on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (which states that the basic physiological needs of hunger, thirst, shelter and safety) must be met before any self-esteem or self-actualization can be fulfilled. Nevertheless, my poor diet due to our economic status was negatively affecting my true academic potential, as well as social development.
Welcome to Miami…
Our economic situation would be the determining factor in all aspects of my life for many years after, which brings me to my second largest influence, my high school. We arrived in Miami, Florida three years and four states later (including Puerto Rico—a commonwealth not so much a state). But sunny Miami proved to be no different than its polar opposite, New York City. We were still too poor to afford all the beauty Miami had to offer and I soon understood why they called it a tourist town. Only those visiting with lots of money to spare could truly enjoy it. Those with little to no money (like us) were always guaranteed the worst homes (this time a mobile home) on the worst streets, with the worst neighbors. But more importantly to me, this neighborhood guaranteed the worst of schools. I had been involved in more than a dozen fights by the age of thirteen and I still had high school to look forward to. When I entered the ninth grade I had learned to stand up straight and look threatening in order to avoid a fight. Though my violent encounters diminished significantly, I was still not out of harms way. Every day at the cafeteria there would be race riots. The school was 51% Hispanic and 49% African-American. On the rare days we were spared the riots (which included flying, metal chairs, pocket knives, and an occasional stab wound) we had after school shootings to dodge while waiting for the bus or walking home. My first priority was to stay alive, academic and social involvement came far behind. But, after reviewing my whole account I can’t help but think, that anyone reading this could wonder: How could someone under such extreme situations grow to love school? I admit that it may seem a complicated matter, best left to the scrutiny of psychoanalysis-which often deals with the unconscious forces that motivate human behavior. In my own defend all I can say is that, compared to an empty house and no family to share with, school seemed like welcomed haven despite its constant perils.
My Newfound Love for The Bard…
Tenth grade English class was another immense influence in my life. This was the year when, for the first time, I was exposed to greatness. I experienced the magnificence of this poet through one of his most famous works, Julius Caesar. I believed William Shakespeare to be an insightful pioneer for his time-perhaps one of the first psychoanalysts (an expert in human nature). A man after my own heart. Page by enchanting page I was hypnotized by the music, the explosive scenes, the engaging dialogue, and the mastery of tragedy. In addition, our teacher presented us with the Hollywood version, starting Marlon Brando as Anthony. The experience of seeing it acted out made it a complete experience. The play took on full dimension. While other students passed notes or whispered in the dark about the latest gossip, I tried to contain myself. I couldn’t let anybody know, or even suspect, that I had secretly embarked on a love affair with a four-hundred-year-old, dead, poet and playwright. This newfound infatuation for the Bard has now developed into a passion for sharing his art with the world (or at least the students I come in contact with every year). So, in the midst of such a chaotic educational experience I managed to ignite the spark that would later burn long and hard. I was suddenly very serious about my education and I surrounded myself with people of similar interest. A fraternity of geeks in a hazardous inner city school. But it was school after all that would serve as the vehicle to get out of my oppressive surroundings, and Shakespeare was the wheel that gave that vehicle its unfaltering direction.
…An then there was Mrs. Festa: Math Teacher Extraordinaire!
Due to my adoration and inclination for English Literature I suffered greatly in the areas of math and science my entire career as a student. I was convinced I would never enjoy any such classes and what was worse, that my inability to solve a quadratic equation would keep me from doing well in school, or even graduate. My mind was made up. Academic success was entirely determined by how much predisposition one had for a particular subject and not by the talent of any one teacher. This rhetoric, leads me to my fourth influence, Mrs. Festa, my eleventh grade trigonometry teacher. This firecracker of a lady never sat behind her desk. She never sat anywhere. Yes. She was standing the whole year! Mrs. Festa ran across the classroom back and forth trying to explain theorems and the significance of isosceles triangles. Even those of us who didn’t understand it completely were never bored. She dazzled us with her endless energy and three-dimensional props. Furthermore, she always used “real-life” examples and made clear connections between the student and the curriculum. Many years after Mrs. Festa I can still remember her, and use her as a model of the kind of teacher I try to be everyday. Her style is what I describe as “Active Teaching”, wherein the teacher is in constant motion and direct involvement with the student to ensure their full engagement. I had to admit, if Mrs. Festa could actually excite me about complementary angles, I may hope to excite my own students (especially the ones with an aversion to old English poets) someday about the power behind the words: “We cannot all be masters, nor all masters cannot be truly follow’d.” Mrs. Festa indirectly taught me a lesson no university class, college seminar, or research project could ever teach me; I will be the best Literature teacher I can be. I will never sit behind my desk. I will never sit at all. I will take the “Active Teaching” approach and be a firecracker lady myself.
On the other side of the “Active Teaching” coin is “Passive Teaching”, which I was fortunate enough to experience first hand. This was the most negative and one of the most influential events yet. I served as an aid in a Vocational Track senior English class. I was required to watch this poor excuse for a Literature teacher waste the power of words by sitting behind his desk day in and day out. The assignments always came in the same fashion, as he announced the page numbers for the day’s silent reading assignments. His monotone voice put not just the back row, but every row to sleep everyday. He continued daily unaffected by his ineffectiveness. In addition, he over-utilized television in the classroom. The library’s educational video collection did the teaching for him. He didn’t understand that poetry must be done standing up to project the right tone and create mood, that a play must be acted out, that short stories are not just meant to be read silently but brought to life, in order to grasp the elements of fiction. He denied his students the joy of learning a subject with endless possibilities. He refused to teach. He became the anti-firecracker; the kind of teacher I would never become. Sometimes knowing what you definitely don’t want is more powerful than finding out about those you do want.
In the end, I can honestly say that despite the hardships, I wouldn’t change any of my experiences. Even those experiences which seem traumatic and at times even life-threatening have taught me things (necessary things) I would have otherwise read about and possibly not assimilated. I missed growing up in a regular family setting, but I can’t regret coming to this wonderful country, where my mom’s expectations have come true. As a result of her sacrifices, I am in a better position to dictate my own future. The rest of the events, though told separately merge together to form a whole. Because of my dreadful experiences with violence in high school, I feel I am the kind of teacher that is painfully aware of a student’s life beyond the classroom doors (necessary in order to see the student as an individual with individual needs not just someone whose merely there to receive and memorize educational information). Because of my intense passion for the subject, I feel I am the kind of teacher that possesses endless energy and creativity (a must to keep the students engaged—hopping and running about always keeps the audience guessing). Finally, I accept the fact that teaching is a continuous learning experience, which will present me with constant, new challenges. After all with my track record I fill confident I can handle any and all challenges that come my way, as I continue through one of the toughest and most rewarding careers in the world; teaching.