New York Times columnist Michael Winerip seldom gets kudos here but last week he turned in a great profile of an outstanding lifelong teacher. Jean Louise Stellfox was a Shakespeare-quoting, grammar-loving English teacher in the coal-mining town of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, who set high, exacting goals and held all her students to them. Students stayed in touch with her long after leaving school, often to thank Miss Stellfox for the skills and lessons she imparted. To ensure that her legacy and love of teaching lived on, she willed her estate - a surprising $1.5 million - to Dickinson College. It will be used to bring writers to her alma mater, where the Great Poet, Robert Frost, once spoke and unwittingly inspired the young Stellfox to become an English teacher. Winerip writes, "If you're lucky, once in a lifetime you have a teacher like Jean Louise Stellfox." It's the only sad line in this otherwise uplifting piece, because luck has everything to do with whether students are assigned to a Miss Stellfox, or someone far less qualified.
"Careful Plan Keeps an English Teacher's Devotion Alive," by Michael Winerip, New York Times, August 24, 2005, (subscription required)