My favorite teacher was Mr. Taverna. He was the only male teacher in the elementary school and undoubtedly the most famous. Everyone in town knew that Mr. Taverna was a great teacher and it was quite a coup if you got in his fourth grade class.

First, his math technique was called Delicious Fractions. We got to have fudge and pizza while we learned math! Second, there were his stories. Mr. Taverna wrote a series about a mythical town in Italy featuring Professor Pasta and the pepper bomb. He read an excerpt to the class once a week. We lived for that magical once-a-week story hour. It was never long enough.

Years later, as I began writing my own stories, I realized how lucky I was to have experienced his class and the natural creativity he offered his students. As I struggle with the intricacies of my own mystery series, I wonder now how he came up with the plots. I wonder, too, if Mr. Taverna’s stories were meant to ease concerns of youngsters living in the shadow of a Strategic Air Command base during the height of the Cold War.

But mostly I wonder why I was lucky enough to have Mr. Taverna as an influence in my life. He was the first person I ever met who wrote stories others wanted to hear. I wanted to do that, too. How did I end up in the right classroom at the perfect time, ready to be impressed by an authority figure who showed that it was astoundingly okay to make stuff up and write it down?

I’d like to think every child is lucky enough to encounter at least one influential teacher but also know that plenty of children around the world never get any decent schooling at all.

Not cool.

As a writer, I want to see global literacy rates improve. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the global literacy rate is 86.3%, which isn’t too bad. But there are some countries like Afghanistan, Chad, and Mali where the rate is 40% or less.

Literacy is just one indicator of well-being but it’s also a tool to help children and CompassionBloggers.com is doing a great job of doing just that. Bloggers affiliated with the site spread the word and visit child advocacy programs in places like Nicaragua where I saw firsthand the meagre educational opportunities for children in rural areas.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I’m a strong supporter of Water.org for the same reason. Global communities under stress need the basics in order to boost education and become economically viable.

As I write this post, in my mind’s eye I see Mr. Taverna: Curly gray hair, wide 1970’s tie, an open notebook on his lap as he reads the latest thrilling installment. He showed us that we could do more than be a bunch of small-town kids.

And he did it with compassion.

Who was your favorite teacher?

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