Celebration of Teaching: Mr. Penn

By Katie Doyle — I didn’t always want to be a teacher.  I wanted to be a journalist or an actress or a businesswoman or anything else, really.  I had never actually considered teaching until I was in the 11th grade.

I was talking to Mr. Penn, an English teacher in my high school and the advisor of our school newspaper.  I was reaching the time when I needed to start applying to college, or at least start thinking of a career path.  “You should teach,” he told me.

I’ll never forget that.  It was simple advice, but it has always stuck with me.  Mr. Penn was an incredible teacher and mentor to me during my high school years.  He was kind, thoughtful, and encouraging.  He cultivated critical thinkers and talented writers.  He took the classroom beyond just a study of literature and allowed his students to interpret stories in their own way.

He was one of my favorite teachers, and his belief in my ability to teach had a profound impact on me.  He made me believe in myself, and I began to explore the idea of becoming a teacher.

I lost touch with Mr. Penn over the years.  He retired the same year I graduated, and he moved somewhere warm, I think.  But I will always remember the man who inspired me to pursue this path in my life.  He was a teacher who genuinely valued critical thinking, creativity, and gumption.  He made all of us better students and better people.   With this post, I celebrate Mr. Penn, a truly great teacher.


Katie Doyle is a Milwaukee-area native and a Spring 2012 graduate of Marquette where she majored in Middle/Secondary Education and Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture.  She studied in Madrid, Spain during her sophomore year and did her student teaching at Nicolet High School.  Katie is passionate about social justice and all things Spanish.  Katie will be serving with City Year – San Jose/Silicon Valley for the 2012-2013 school year to improve literacy and graduation rates in San José, California.

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