In sixth grade I had an English teacher who desperately wanted us to learn to write and speak correctly. She drilled English syntax and structure into us relentlessly. She was, to me at that time, incredibly scary and mean. All the students hated her, but the rules of language and clear expression — pretty key ingredients in being a writer — got pounded into my head.
This teacher is quite old now, and a little while back, she came up to New York to see a performance of my play Caroline, or Change. I met her afterward and tried to tell her how important her lessons had been to me. “Thank you,” I said. “You really changed my life. I can’t tell you how much I owe you.”