Author, Journalist, and CNN National Security Analyst
“I was lucky enough to have an inspirational history teacher when I was fifteen. Stephan Dammam was a charismatic entertainer in class who brought his history classes alive, and for some reason he saw in me a student who had a real interest in history. He pushed me to follow that interest to Oxford, where I studied modern history. Without his faith in me, I don’t think I would have found a career writing about contemporary history.”
Peter Bergen is a journalist, documentary producer, Vice President for Global Studies and Fellows at New America, CNN national security analyst, professor of practice at Arizona State University, and the author or editor of seven books about national security, three of which were New York Times bestsellers and four of which were named among the best non-fiction books of the year by The Washington Post. The books have been translated into twenty-one languages. Documentaries based on his books have been nominated for two Emmys and also won the Emmy for best documentary. He has held teaching positions at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He has testified before U.S. Congressional committees seventeen times about national security issues. Bergen produced the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997. The interview, which aired on CNN, marked the first time that bin Laden declared war against the United States to a Western audience. He has a degree in Modern History from New College, Oxford.
Author and Contributing Editor at The Atlantic
“I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of my tenth-grade English teacher Art Leo pretty much every time I write. Art (we got to call him by his first name) banned us from handing in papers that used the verb "to be," which he considered the laziest, dullest, and most overused verb—not to mention the most difficult to extricate from your sentences. I remember sweating through linguistic gymnastics as I wrote, rewrote, revised, tweaked, and polished my essays to eliminate all traces of "was" and "were." But he convinced me: "Is" is boring. His simple rule opened my eyes not only to the beauty and power of language, but to the blood-sweat-and-tears required if we hope to express ourselves well. To this day I feel guilty when I say anything "is," "was," or "will be."”
Bianca Bosker is an award-winning journalist and the author of the New York Times bestseller Cork Dork. Bianca is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New Republic, and Food & Wine, among other publications. The former executive tech editor of HuffPost, she is also the author of the critically-acclaimed Original Copies.
Author and Professor at Yale Law School
“The teacher who impacted me the most wasn't my own teacher, but my daughter's. She was an extraordinary woman by the name of Judy Cuthbertson who taught second grade. My daughter was a very contrarian and quirky kid — probably partly in reaction to coming after her very high-achieving, rule-following older sister. She insisted that she was “bad” at all kinds of things, and often wouldn’t go along with what was asked — frustrating other teachers to no end — but somehow Judy just understood her. Because Judy saw that spark in her and made her feel special. She made all the difference, just by seeing how interesting my daughter's mind really is and by believing in her.”
Amy Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Professor Chua received both her A.B. and J.D. degrees from Harvard University. While at Harvard Law School, Professor Chua was Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review. She then clerked for Chief Judge Patricia M. Wald on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and, prior to entering academics in 1994, practiced with the Wall Street firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. Professor Chua joined the Yale Law School faculty in 2001. Her expertise is in international business transactions, law and development, ethnic conflict, and globalization and the law. Her first book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability was a New York Times bestseller and selected by both The Economist and the U.K.’s Guardian as a Best Book of 2003. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance — and Why They Fall and the 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a runaway international bestseller translated into 30 languages. Her latest New York Timesbestseller, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups, is coauthored with Jed Rubenfeld. Professor Chua has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Colbert Report, Charlie Rose, and Real Time with Bill Maher. She has addressed numerous government and policymaking institutions, including the Brookings Institution, the CIA, the World Economic Forum in Davos, and the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul. In 2011, Professor Chua was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people, one of the Atlantic Monthly's Brave Thinkers, and one of Foreign Policy's Global Thinkers. She also received the Yale Law School's "Best Teaching" award. Her most recent book, Political Tribes, was published in February 2018. www.amychua.com
Journalist and Host
“The teacher who most inspired me was Milburn Meeker, a theatre teacher at Highland Park High School. Her style and flair and passion for this compelling art made it a way of life for me.”
Lee Cullum is a journalist based in Dallas who currently hosts CEO, a series of interviews with business leaders on KERA-TV and FM, the PBS and NPR affiliates in North Texas, and writes occasionally for the Dallas Morning News. She has been a regular commentator on “The PBS NewsHour” as well as for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Now on the board the American Security Project, she also has served on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, The Pacific Council on International Policy, the American Council on Germany and Freedom House. In addition, she is a member of the Trilateral Commission and the InterAmetican Dialogue and a senior fellow at the John Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU. She has received the Matrix Award from Women in Communications twice, as well as the Woman of Achievement Award from Southern Methodist University and the C.E. Shuford Award for Outstanding Journalist in Dallas-Fort Worth. In addition, she was given the J.B. Marryatt Award by the Dallas Press Club.
Senior Education Editor
“There are many great teachers and mentors who have shaped my life. One who is in my thoughts often is my high school photography teacher. Simpson Cloyd was a gruff World War II veteran from Kentucky. For anyone who was willing to learn, he didn’t care when the bell rang or when the school day was over, and he treated us like grownups. He instilled in me a love of images and cameras and photography, and of the science and technology behind it. I still feel it today, every time I pick up a camera or take a picture with my phone.”
Steve Drummond leads NPR's education reporting project, NPR Ed, which launched in March 2014. Drummond joined NPR in 2000 as an editor on the national desk. In 2003, he became the senior editor of All Things Considered. He returned to the national desk in 2004 to edit coverage of poverty and welfare, education, religion, and crime and punishment. From 2007 through 2013, he was NPR’s Senior National Editor and oversaw domestic news coverage and a team of more than 60 reporters, producers and editors in Washington, DC, and 18 bureaus around the country. Before joining NPR, Drummond spent six years as a senior editor and writer for Education Week, and has been a reporter with The Tampa Tribune and The St. Petersburg Times in Florida and at the Associated Press in Detroit. He has written for a variety of publications including The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, The New York Times, and Teacher magazine. After getting a graduate degree in education, Steve also worked as middle and high school teacher. At NPR his work has been honored with many of journalism's highest awards, including three Peabody Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University awards, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award. Drummond holds a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees, in journalism and education, from the University of Michigan. In the fall of 2013 he was a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.
Author and Contributing Editor at Vogue.com
“My favorite teacher ever was my high school science and math teacher, John Pearce. Astronomy (including building our own telescope, and hand grinding, with infinite precision, the lens—and it was insanely powerful). Calculus (which I almost flunked but then talked him into teaching me a solo course in non-Euclidean geometry—it was a progressive boarding school). And he taught a class called Natural Science that was an environmental science class before its time, wherein he taught us that everything is related. So much of what he taught us turned out to be true so many years later, foreshadowing theories about ozone depletion and global warming and dependence on coal and oil. I still marvel at what he taught me; the mathematical formulas, botanical observations, and reflections on the composition of air, fire, and water, with a full scale laboratory involved (chemistry was a prerequisite before you could take this course). His class also involved the splendor of wild-life and nature of 70 acres of South Woodstock, Vermont and the observation of four very distinct seasons. Our final exam was to sit in the woods for four hours and write about everything we saw and how it all related to each other. 'Everything is related'—John Pearce”
Amy Ephron is the author of the award-winning and bestselling A Cup of Tea. She is also a contributor and contributing editor at Vogue and Vogue.com. The Castle in the Mist is her first novel for children. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and any of their children who stop by.
“I owe a tremendous amount to Kenny Sholl, the assistant headmaster of the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My football coach on the field and my geometry teacher off it, Kenny has set an example for literally thousands of boys over three and a half decades in the classroom. His intelligence, sense of humor, and commitment to teaching, training, and mentoring boys are all things I try to carry into my life as I raise two boys of my own.”
Andrew Exum is a contributing editor at The Atlantic magazine. Until January of 2017, he was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East Policy at the Pentagon. He began his career as an officer in the U.S. Army and fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Andrew was educated in Philadelphia, Beirut, and London.
Journalist and Visiting Lecturer at UNLV
“My two favorite teachers were Mr. Tom Murray and Mr. Kurt Tilliman. As the coaches of my high school mock trial team, they taught me how to construct an argument, how to marshal evidence to support that argument, how to think critically, speak publicly, and write elegantly. They also taught me the importance of hard work, of revision—of refining your written thoughts until you get them right. I didn't realize it at the time, but everything I learned from them would later help me in writing and in life. I am so grateful to them.”
Amanda Fortini has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, California Sunday, Rolling Stone, The New Republic, The Paris Review, New York, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Wired, Slate and Salon, among other publications. She is a Contributing Editor at Elle, where she writes about culture, women, and women's issues. She has also worked as an editor at Mirabella, The New York Review of Books, and Slate, and has been the William Kittredge Visiting Professor at the University of Montana. Her essays have been widely anthologized, including in Best American Political Writing and Best of Slate, and she was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award. She is currently a visiting lecturer at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She divides her time between Las Vegas, Nevada and Livingston, Montana.
Author, Journalist, and Editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories
“The importance of a one-on-one connection between teacher and student is certainly true of the teacher who most influenced me, Irving Kizner, my Latin teacher at Hunter College High School in New York City from seventh through twelfth grade. He gave me a language with which to speak about language—the beautiful balance of Latin. He also was a trustworthy adult at a time when my troubles seemed insoluble and most interactions with adults felt dangerous. He even persuaded my math teacher to pass me (and it took some persuasion) so I could graduate from high school. Mr. Kizner died last year and his children received a large bouquet of tributes from his over-fifty years of teaching and helping his students to be better human beings. I never forgot him and neither did many others lucky enough to be his student.”
Laura Furman was born in New York, and educated in New York City public schools, including Hunter College High School, and at Bennington College. Her first story appeared in The New Yorker in 1976; since then work has appeared in Yale Review, Southwest Review, Subtropics, Ploughshares, The American Scholar, and elsewhere. Her books include three collections of short stories, two novels, and a memoir. Recipient of fellowships from the Dobie Paisano Project, John S. Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts, she’s been series editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories since 2002; each year she selects the twenty winning stories. She is a professor emerita in the English Department of the University of Texas at Austin. Her most recent story collection is The Mother Who Stayed. She lives in Austin, Texas.
“Like so many young kids, I grew up convinced I was going to be a professional athlete. That dream fell through by the time I’d reached ninth grade, at which point it was Renee Burke, my high school yearbook and newspaper advisor, who helped me discover my voice — and my backup plan — through journalism. For four years at Boone High School in Orlando, I practically lived in Renee’s classroom, where she came to work early and stayed way too late, way too often, to teach me and my classmates the finer points of everything from writing and editing to photography and page design. But beyond that, her class was a sanctuary where I felt most comfortable being myself (not to mention the place where I met my future wife). More than a decade has passed since I graduated, and I’m fortunate to still consider Renee one of my closest friends. ”
An Orlando native and graduate of the University of Central Florida, Sam Gardner spent eight years telling athletes’ stories at FOX Sports before joining Florida Citrus Sports as the organization’s assistant director of communications earlier this year. In 2015, his “One & Done” series placed fourth in the projects category among publications with a circulation greater than 175,000 at the APSE’s annual writing contest. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @sam_gardner.
“Growing up in a small Texas city, I played in the high school orchestra under David Holcombe. Our performances were always close to chaos: few of us were exactly musical talents. But Mr. Holcombe taught us to play with passion, regardless how many notes we missed. ”
Skip Hollandsworth grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas, attended TCU in Fort Worth and after graduation worked as a reporter and columnist for newspapers in Dallas. He also has worked as a television producer and documentary filmmaker. Since 1989, he has been a staff writer at Texas Monthly magazine, where he has received several journalism awards, including a National Headliners Award, the national John Hancock Award for Excellence in Business and Financial Journalism, the City and Regional Magazine gold award for feature writing, and the Texas Institute of Letters O. Henry award for magazine writing. He has been a finalist four times for a National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2010 he won the National Magazine Award in feature writing for “Still Life,” his story about a young man who, after suffering a crippling football injury in high school, spent the next 33 years in his bedroom, unable to move. The movie "Bernie," which Hollandsworth co-wrote with Richard Linklater, was released in May 2012. It is based on a story he wrote in the January 1998 Texas Monthly titled "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas." His book, The Midnight Assassin, a true historical thriller, was published in April 2016 and became a New York Times bestseller. The Midnight Assassin is a history of Austin, Texas in the year 1885 when a brutal but brilliant serial killer went on a rampage, ritualistically slaughtering seven women over the course of twelve months, and setting off a citywide panic. Three years later, when a man nicknamed Jack the Ripper carried out a similar series of killings in the Whitechapel district of London, England, Scotland Yard detectives speculated that he was the Austin killer who had traveled overseas to continue to carry out his "diabolical work." In its review, The New York Times described the The Midnight Assassin as “true crime of high quality,” “smart and restrained” and “chilling.” The Wall Street Journal called the book a “thoroughly researched, excitingly written history” and an “absorbing work.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“My high school journalism teacher, Sarah Crotzer, showed me how powerful words could be. She taught me how to write and the importance of narrative journalism. More than that, she always listened. Her classroom was a safe haven when nowhere else was. And she believed in me. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Lizzie Johnson is an author and San Francisco Chronicle wildfire beat reporter. She led The Chronicle’s award-winning coverage of the most destructive blazes in state history, including the Wine Country Wildfires in 2017 and the Camp Fire in 2018. Her first book, Paradise, is about the Camp Fire and will publish in 2020. Before moving to Northern California, she worked at newspapers in Chicago, Dallas, Omaha and Buenos Aires. A Nebraska native, she is an alumna of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Author and Senior Fellow
Brennan Center for Justice
“My third grade teacher Lillie Costin was a huge influence in my life. She was the first teacher who took a special interest in me and went out of her way to nurture the potential she saw in me. She helped me believe that I had something special to offer the world, even as a shy and introverted 8 year old. ”
Theodore R. Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. His research and writing are focused on black voting behavior, racial justice, and the role of national solidarity in addressing racial inequality. He also teaches graduate courses at Georgetown University and Northeastern University. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Dr. Johnson was a national fellow at the New America, a Commander in the United States Navy, and a research manager at Deloitte. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and several other national publications. He has also provided analysis of race and politics on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. In recognition of his leadership in public service, Johnson was selected as a White House Fellow during the Obama administration. He is currently writing a book titled When the Stars Begin to Fall: Race, Solidarity, and the Future of America to be published by Grove Atlantic in 2020. Dr. Johnson holds a B.S. in mathematics from Hampton University, an A.L.M. with a concentration in International Relations from Harvard University, and a Doctorate of Law and Policy from Northeastern University.
Classical Music Critic
San Francisco Chronicle
“My elementary school music teacher, a gruff and committed educator named Richard Marcus, taught us great swatches of the American songbook — folk songs, Tin Pan Alley ditties, Civil War songs, blues, and so much more — just by having us sing them over and over. It might not have seemed so profound at the time, but decades later, everyone who came through his classes still has a vast and unshakable cultural legacy at their fingertips.”
Joshua Kosman has covered classical music for the San Francisco Chronicle since 1988, reviewing and reporting on the wealth of orchestral, operatic, chamber and contemporary music throughout the Bay Area. He holds degrees in music from Yale and UC Berkeley, and is a contributor to the New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, 2nd Edition, and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera. He is a member of the Music Critics' Association of North America and a past winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for music criticism, and his articles have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club. In his spare time, he is the co-constructor of a weekly cryptic crossword puzzle in The Nation magazine, and has repeatedly placed among the top 20 contestants at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
Journalist and former Washington Post Bureau Chief
“In high school I had an English teacher named Holly Weeks. She taught me to write in clear, straightforward prose, and she always kept us on our toes. One day a man with a bandanna over his face burst into her classroom, grabbed her purse, and bolted out the door. Rather than call the police, she ordered us to quickly write an account of exactly what had happened. She then confessed that the “robbery” had been staged and read aloud from our descriptions, which of course differed wildly in key details—how the man was dressed, what he had said on entering the room, and so on. It was a valuable lesson on the tricks of memory that served me well in my career as a journalist. More than 40 years later Holly and I still keep in touch.”
John Lancaster is a veteran journalist who spent 20 years at the Washington Post, eight of them as a foreign correspondent based in Cairo and then New Delhi. Since leaving the Post in 2007, his work has appeared in National Geographic, The New Republic, Slate, Smithsonian, National Geographic Traveler, The Smart Set, the Big Roundtable, The Surfer’s Journal and Wyofile.com. A piece he wrote for Smithsonian was selected for the 2008 edition of “Best American Travel Writing,” and a subsequent story for National Geographic was a finalist for the 2010 edition of the same anthology. He is currently working on a book about the dawn of long-distance flying. John is married to Catherine Gail Walker, an attorney, and lives in Washington, D.C.
Author and Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair
“At Hibbing High School, I had the great good fortune of having two brothers, Dan and Matt Bergan, as teachers. Dan was an English teacher, and Matt was a math teacher, and thanks to them, I could write a paper and solve a proof well enough to major in English and math in college.”
Bethany McLean is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. She graduated from Williams College in 1992 with a double major in math and English, and spent the next three years working as an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. In 1995, she joined Fortune Magazine as a reporter, and eventually became an editor-at-large. Her 2001 piece, “Is Enron Overpriced?” was one of the first skeptical articles about Enron, and after the company collapsed into bankruptcy, she co-authored “The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron” with her Fortune colleague Peter Elkind. A documentary based on the book was nominated for an Academy Award in 2006. In 2008, McLean joined Vanity Fair as a contributing editor. In 2010, her book “All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis,” which she co-authored with New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, was published. Her most recent book is “Shaky Ground: The Strange Saga of the U.S. Mortgage Giants.” She is also a columnist for Yahoo Finance and a contributor to CNBC.
Column One Editor
Los Angeles Times
“My eighth grade English teacher awarded prizes — bookmarks and other trinkets — if we read a certain number of pages. Mrs. Wood learned that I had written a humorous essay (trust me, I was funny back then) in the manner of Richard Armour, a humorist and poet who, sadly, probably isn't widely read anymore. I found him hilarious. Mrs. Wood reproduced the essay and annnounced that my classmates could get page credit by reading it. The piece was no "Call of the Wild" — one book I remember from that year — but it counted as reading. Mrs. Wood had launched a writer. ”
Steve Padilla is editor of the Times’ showcase Column One feature and director of Metpro, the paper’s training fellowship. A 30-year Times veteran, he has spent most of his career at the paper as an editor, supervising just about anything -- local news, state news, higher education, politics and religion. He now works with correspondents sprinkled around the country and overseas. A specialist in narratives, he also serves as a writing coach and lectures frequently on writing technique. He also was a reporter at the San Diego Union and founding editor of Hispanic Link Weekly Report, a Washington-based newsletter on Latino affairs.
Author, Journalist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist
“Mother Mary Ephrem, my eighth grade nun; Jeanette Ritzenthaler, my English teacher my senior year in high school; Catharine Stimpson, my major advisor at Barnard: I believe teachers, particularly those three, made me dare to pursue a life as a writer.”
Anna Quindlen is a writer whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction and self-help bestseller lists. While a columnist for the New York Times, where she won the Pulitzer Prize, and later writing the Last Word for Newsweek magazine, some of her most impassioned work was about the essential role of teachers in our society. Mother Mary Ephrem, her eighth grade nun; Jeanette Ritzenthaler, her English teacher her senior year in high school; Catharine Stimpson, her major advisor at Barnard: she believes teachers, particularly those three, made her dare to pursue a life as a writer. (In her latest novel, “Miller’s Valley,” the life of her protagonist is changed forever through the intercession of a teacher.) The power of teaching, and teachers, was only reinforced for her by spending time in the classroom of Elyathamby Vignarajah, who at age 81 is still teaching high school physics.
“Yolie Diego was a Spanish teacher at my high school and her husband Dennis was my soccer coach. Their son is one of my best friends so I spent a lot of time at their house. Yolie taught me more Spanish over dinners then I ever learned in a classroom. Dennis, over years and years as my coach, taught me what hard work felt like, and that it was always worth the effort.”
Matt Skenazy is a Senior Editor at Outside magazine, where he has worked since 2012. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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