I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

I shall speak only of my first teacher because in addition to the other things, she brought discovery.

She aroused us to shouting, bookwaving discussions. She had the noisiest class in school and she didn’t even seem to know it. We could never stick to the subject. She breathed curiosity into us so that we brought in facts or truths shielded in our hands like captured fireflies.

She was fired and perhaps rightly so, for failing to teach fundamentals. Such things must be learned. But she left a passion in us for the pure knowable world and she inflamed me with a curiosity which has never left. I could not do simple arithmetic but through her I sensed that abstract mathematics was very much like music.

When she was relieved, a sadness came over us but the light did not go out. She left her signature on us, the literature of the teacher who writes on minds. I suppose that to a large extent I am the unsigned manuscript of the high school teacher. What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person.

I can tell my son who looks forward with horror to fifteen years of drudgery that somewhere in the dusty dark a magic may happen that will light up the years... if he is very lucky.