In Praise of Teaching

When I sent letters to 17 respected writers who are UW alumni, I didn't know what to expect. I had asked them to briefly describe their favorite teacher during their time at the University of Washington. I wondered if they would care to respond-or if they bothered to open their own mail. Even if they saw my missive, did they actually have an experience at the University worth writing about it?

As I sent out the letters, I saw a gaping news hole staring at me. In a panic, my associate editor and I started thinking up alternative articles to write if the idea flopped.

Then the calls, e-mails, faxes and letters started to come in. Sure, there were a few who said they would "pass" on the idea and others who didn't respond at all. But most writers relished the project. One called and asked if he could do three teachers instead of just one. Another missed the deadline because she was out of town, but wrote her appreciation anyway, faxed it to us and graciously asked if we could find the room to print it. (We did.)

When I looked at the lineup in "My Favorite Teacher," I found that we had writers representing every decade from the 1930s through the 1980s. There is some consistency here, I told myself. Despite wars, student protests and budget cuts, the quality of teaching at the University of Washington has touched many, many lives. If you look over the winners of this year's UW Distinguished Teaching Awards ("The Best of 1999"), you will see that tradition continues today.

So I decided to take another risk-asking the 230,000 alumni reading this issue to send us similar appreciations of their favorite teachers. If you've always meant to thank that one professor who touched your life, this is your big chance. Please limit your writing to five or six paragraphs and send it to: My Favorite Teacher, Columns Magazine, 1415 N.E. 45th St., Seattle, WA 98105; fax: (206) 685-0611, e-mail:

Tom Griffin

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