{OPED} Loose Ends: A teacher or a writer?

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MEEKER | “So, which are you, a teacher or a writer?

The blunt question took me aback for a minute. I had only been teaching in this community (and anywhere else for that matter) for a couple of years. When I accepted the part-time teaching position, I was working in my parent’s chosen line of work-newspapering. No one had ever said I should try my hand at journalism, as my interest had always been working with children. But then again, no one advised me against it and newspapers in both cities and small towns were doing well.

I was speechless for a brief moment, and then I remember saying something inane, giving the questioner a lot more information than they wanted to know. It could be boiled down to something like this, “Oh, I am a teacher by training, but I have always been a writer.” That was a bit of a stretch, I admit. Nothing I had written up to that point had been published, I spent much of my free time writing all sorts of things, short stories, a novel, poetry. and a few essays.

Much later, I thought of that question again, as most of my co-workers didn’t care what I thought I was, they knew I had a couple of occupations and thought of me as both a teacher and a writer. Living in this small town for so many years, I realized that question and those labels were important to many people. They needed to put me in “my place,” so to speak

Getting my first children’s book published more than 15 years ago, I was asked once more to define myself. It wasn’t a local questioner, rather an editor in a rather large book publisher. She had wanted me to say I wasn’t going to teach any longer, that I would dedicate all my time to the writing profession. But again, I refused to be labeled. I am a children’s book writer, but I remain an educator. I write columns for a newspaper every so often, but I work with literacy projects in both Meeker and Denver. I have gone back into spending most of my time these days taking my two published children’s books into schools all over the state, and talking to kids about how important it is to never give up any dream.

One of my youngest students in my literacy class at Meeker Elementary caught up with me that first year in the hallway and shouted out, “Hey, Mrs. Arthur. How did you write that book?”

He knew me as his teacher, but couldn’t imagine I would be anything else, an actual author, as one of my newest students called me the other day.

By Dolly Viscardi | Special to the HT