An Alumna Story: The Journey from Amistad Academy to Howard University Began with One BookCategory: Home, News
Beonca Duncan (Amistad Academy Middle School, Class of 2005), recently completed a marketing and communications internship at Achievement First. In this post, she writes about the book and the teacher that changed her life.
Nine years ago, I was a child petrified to read the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Today, I must have read the book about 20 times—it being one of the hundreds of difficult books I have read on my way to becoming a senior at Howard University.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is now one of my favorite books. I hold it dearly to my heart not only because of the romantic storyline of the main characters, but also because of the person who suggested I read the book in the first place.
Mr. Taylor, one of my all-time favorite teachers, is also one of the most influential people I have ever met. When I was 12 years old, Mr. Taylor gave me the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God from his wife’s personal library. He told me it was one of her favorite books and warned me that it would be challenging but said he really wanted me to read it. I didn’t think I could tackle the book after I read the first page and saw the difficult dialect, but I knew if Mr. Taylor thought I could handle it, I could.
I took on the challenge of reading Their Eyes Were Watching God because Mr. Taylor taught me that reading was cool and that it opens you up to so much more in the world. I used to be afraid to show my classmates that I liked to read. I didn’t want to look like a teacher’s pet, so I would often fail to raise my hand in class book discussions or hesitate to read aloud in class. However, no matter how much I would try to downplay my reading skills, Mr. Taylor knew my potential and he could tell I could achieve more than what I portrayed in class.
Mr. Taylor made a point to always call on me in class discussions and praise me in front of the other students for my ability to “read between the lines.” His enthusiasm about my reading skills made me enthusiastic about reading and I was no longer afraid to show my peers how much I loved to read. I finished reading Their Eyes Were Watching God and I felt accomplished.
After graduating from Amistad Academy, I began to write short stories that mirrored the books I read in middle school. This eventually led to me writing my own book, a project I continue to work on. Looking back now, I truly believe Mr. Taylor’s pushing me to become a stronger reader opened me up to a much bigger world and exposed me to so much more information. It really helped shape me into the person I have become today.
Now, I am always reading and I am always excited to expand my knowledge in some way. As a senior at Howard University, I am preparing myself for a career in public relations, a profession that will require me to always stay on top of current news; reading is still essential to my future. I don’t think I would have been able to find my love of reading and writing, or become a member of the Howard University Class of 2013, if Mr. Taylor hadn’t pushed me to embrace reading as a 12-year-old. He gave me the courage to tackle difficult books and be proud of my interest in reading. His encouragement has had an immeasurable impact on my future. Thank you, Mr. Taylor, I will be forever grateful.
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