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July 29, 2013

Retired local teacher shares wisdom, humor in new book

— There’s a wealth of wisdom and humor to be mined from any 40-year stint in the classroom, and Elizabeth “Lib” Brett shares some of her finest gems in “So You Want to Be a Teacher?”, a 65-page volume that is both entertaining and insightful.

Brett spent most of her career in her native Limestone County, teaching first at Clements High School and later, at Athens High and Calhoun Community College. A delightful conversationalist, an engaging public speaker and a riveting lecturer in the classroom, Brett said it was an anonymous inscription inside a history textbook that motivated her to enliven the classroom experience. That inscription read: “In case of flood, stand on this. It’s dry as dirt.”

There are many adjectives one might use to describe Brett. “Dry” is not one of them. She is sassy, outspoken, mischievous, capable, adventurous, loving, compassionate, and wise — qualities that reveal themselves as Brett recalls memorable exchanges with students and administration, in the process ’fessing up to shenanigans and faux pas such as tossing a recalcitrant student’s shoes out the window; gliding down an icy sidewalk hand-in-hand with a student and falling prone at the feet of her principal and a visitor from the state Department of Education; dumping (accidentally) the contents of her lunch tray on the head of the Balfour representative; and falling asleep onstage, seated beside the superintendent, during a motivational speech by an important guest whom she had just introduced.

Teachers, current and prospective, will find useful tips embedded in Brett’s narrative: methods for outfoxing the cheater at exam time; how to employ the Oreo approach in student evaluation (a layer of constructive criticism sandwiched between layers of praise).

As Brett relates classroom incidents — some of them funny, some touching — it becomes apparent that this is a teacher who loves each of her students, who looks for and finds worth even in the least academically talented, the most intractable. It is evident that Brett’s classroom experience has taught her that every student — from the most intelligent to the most obtuse — has something important to contribute if his audience is but wise enough to listen. Brett’s book is bound to leave the reader wishing he had been in her class.

“So You Want to Be a Teacher?” is available locally at Pablo’s on Market for $15.99. Brett will sign copies of her book at Pablo’s from 4-7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2.

 

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