Today is National Writing Day. It has special meaning this year in District 26, as it has been dedicated to the memory of an exceptional teacher- Pat Sylvester. This well-loved teacher passed away after losing her battle with cancer last year. In her honor, the writing day has been renamed Sylvester’s Symposium of Writing.
Mrs. Sylvester had been instrumental in bringing the writing day, which is organized by the National Council of Teachers of English, to the students of Cary. Students will stop what they are doing this morning and write for twenty-six minutes on any topic they choose.
Mrs. Sylvester taught 5th, 6th, and 8th grades and worked in the school district for over thirty years. My son was lucky enough to have Mrs. Sylvester for 6th grade. She was the first staff member I met at the junior high. It was a stressful time in the district due to financial problems that resulted in deep budget cuts and school closings. The closing of one building, necessitated that my son’s class was suddenly moved up to the junior high.
Any concerns I had about the move were instantly calmed at her parent orientation. She had a protective way about her and convinced us that the best interests of the students were her first priority. Impressed with her background, I was hoping my younger children would eventually get a chance to benefit from having her as their teacher.
She was adept at engaging and relating to this particular age group. It was obvious from the way she talked to the children and the way they responded. Mrs. Sylvester was the type of teacher who had students visiting her classroom and “hanging out” there after school, even if she was not their teacher.
She expected her students to attend parent conferences. I remember her asking my son what he wanted to be when he grew up. She talked about his strengths and interests and how he could broaden them. She set high expectations for him to meet. I distinctly remember her saying how important it was “not to lose the boys.” I understood her prophetic advice better later as 8th grade approached and some enthusiasm for learning was wearing off.
Her wake was held on a bitter winter evening. The lines of people who had come to pay their respects snaked throughout the building. My sons and I waited for hours to offer condolences and we still weren’t able speak to her family at the front of the room.
There could not be a more perfect way to honor this wonderful teacher than with a writing day dedicated to her. My hope is that after the students take time to write today, they consider writing again. I wish they could begin to appreciate writing’s importance and power. Maybe just a little spark of Mrs. Sylvester’s enthusiasm for writing will be ignited in each of them.
Mrs. Sylvester was one of my son’s favorite teachers.
I admired her.
I respected her.
That is why I dropped everything to write for twenty-six minutes today.
Parents, if you would like suggestions to help your teenager writer better, visit the website of the National Council of Teachers of English by clicking here. There are many resources to help improve writing on the site.
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