HONAI: Mr. Hull, English Teacher

"When you run a marathon, you’re tired physically. When you run like an emotional or intellectual marathon, everyday, of dealing with like people and thinking about stuff, trying to like, make your own mark, it’s exhausting..."

November 8, 2018

“One of the biggest shaping forces in my life was my ninth grade Honors English teacher, her name was Ms. Tacz. I remember in eighth grade, we had her come visit when we were in English class, to present us with what all this stuff in ninth grade English would be like, and I was intimidated, because, my dad worked at the power plant. He was a coal truck operator. My mom had my brother when she was 19, she had never gone to college…my dad had never gone to college. My brother was not a highly academic person. So the notion of me taking an Honors class, when my family wasn’t that rich or affluent, which it seemed like only the rich kids took Honors classes, well it seemed like a foreign concept to me. But something about what she said that day was really attractive to me. I think it was like, just the way she presented it.

I liked to read in elementary school, but it was sort of like drowned out, because, in elementary school, they made us read books and take tests on them for, like, personal pan pizzas, and I hated that. I could never remember the details of the story, because I got lost in like the adventure of it or whatever. I loved adventure books, I hated memorizing stuff, and so, I took her class, and, man, she just was like, she rocked my world.

Her hair was a different color everyday, it was like yellow — yellow, not blonde, yellow — purple, pink. This was a really small town, really conservative place, and — this is like in the 90s — she had tattoos, she was such a good teacher. Her class was not that fancy. We came in everyday, our seats were in a circle, we had discussions every single day. We never had tests where we had to memorize huge pieces of books or whatever. When she found out that people were reading Cliff Notes, she went nuts. She always looked tired. And I can remember, she always had a good amount of energy, but she always looked tired. And, like, now, looking back on it, I understand completely why she feels like that.

Because, she put, her heart and soul into it, which is…very energy-giving.

Like, when you run a marathon, you’re tired physically. When you run like an emotional or intellectual marathon, everyday, of dealing with like people and thinking about stuff, trying to like, make your own mark, it’s exhausting — and I’m exhausted, now.

I try to find different ways of recharging my battery pack, and it is, having three kids at home, but even more than that, it’s not the sleep, it’s not that, it’s the output every single day.  And so, she really shaped me — honestly.

Without her, I wouldn’t have been the same person.”

Did she inspire you to teach?

“Yeah, when I went to college, I actually majored in graphic design, for a bit, and marketing. Because those were like, posh careers, at the time. I was good at website design, and I was a creative person, so I wanted to do graphic design. I figured out that, like, I was okay at that, but in a sea of, like, hipsters, that I was in college with, like they were a lot better than me. And marketing, like, I realized that — and no shade on people who are marketers — but it’s basically exploiting people’s tendencies to sell stuff to them. I just felt bad about that.

In the back of my mind, the whole time, I knew that she had planted something inside of me, that made sense, and I finally allowed myself to do that.

The moment that I did that, it was like the moment that you find the person you know you’re gonna marry, like you found your perfect match, and you don’t want to go back from it. I knew that teaching was what I was supposed to do, the moment that I sort of allowed myself to do that.”

Do you think you picked up some of her teaching techniques?

“She was a drop-dead good reader. You know if you think about somebody who picks up a guitar, and they can captivate an entire room, just by playing three chords. She could talk about a book unlike anybody I’ve ever heard of. There were no frills, it was not fancy, it was just that she was so invested in ideas, that when she talked about books, documentaries, her life, and her passions, just the way she saw stuff, it was contagious. You couldn’t help but, latch on to that. Some kids didn’t love it, because, you know they weren’t into that, but I think everybody at least respected what she brought to the table.”

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