Today’s “Afterthoughts” entry was not actually an East Extra column. Instead, it comes from a blog I originally posted in December 2019, featuring a piece I’d written for my friend Linda Hayes’ “We All Have a Story” photo installation at the Webster Public Library.
The exhibit took a closer look at the lives and stories of several Webster Central School District staff members to help illuminate the people inside the classrooms and offices who work with our children every day.
I thought it would be appropriate to re-post that story here, since it does have a kind of nice follow-up, and for those of you just discovering my blogs, it’s a good explanation of why I do what I do.
The power of words
I was a junior in high school when my English teacher said four words that changed my life.
She told me, “You’re a good writer.”
I still remember exactly where I was standing after class that day, and how proud those simple words made me feel. But I didn’t realize then how powerful they were, how much they would shape my future. Because from that day forward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to write.
After graduating high school, I pursued that dream, studying communications at Cornell University and landing jobs in radio and public relations. Even as a stay-at-home mom, I wrote newsletters for my karate school, my Moms Club, and the Rochester Irish community.
Then, in 2008, my writing reached a new level when the Democrat and Chronicle invited me to write a Webster community blog, followed several years later by the weekly East Extra community column. I had finally found a place where my written words could reach a larger audience, giving them even greater meaning and purpose.
As a blogger and columnist for the D&C, I visit new businesses, post stories about community events, and spread positive news about our east-side Rochester towns, villages and residents.
My words have helped launch new businesses and shined a spotlight on inspirational people. They’ve helped our community through times of unbelievable tragedy and mourning. They’ve spread good news about good people in a time when positive stories are few and far between. They’ve prompted tears and laughter, helped old friends reconnect and new friends meet.
I am a busy, multi-faceted person. I’m a wife and a mother, and a full-time teaching assistant in two elementary schools. I’m a martial artist, a volunteer, a community activist. I enjoy sharing a pint with friends.
But writing defines my life. It’s my hobby, my outlet. Writing fills the empty corners of my day.
Four simple words. “You’re a good writer.” They transformed a talent into a passion, and now my words enrich others’ lives every day.
And as long as people keep reading, I will keep writing.
What happened next …
When I shared that story on Facebook, my brother Jim took notice and encouraged me to try to get in touch with my former teacher.
Her name was Linda Yanchus, my junior-year English teacher at Owego Free Academy. I graduated from OFA more than 40 years ago, so I didn’t hold out much hope that I’d be able to track her down. Still, I decided to give it a shot.
Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I very quickly connected with Linda’s ex-husband’s younger brother’s wife. She was happy to pass along my phone number.
About a week later, I got a phone call from my former teacher.
She said that she actually remembered me and my writing and the fun way I would put things. We had a very nice conversation, but I didn’t tell her exactly what she had said to me. I wanted her to read the story for herself. I told her about my blog and invited her to read it there.
A few days later I got this note from her:
That IS quite a story and you ARE a good writer! Thank you so much for reaching out to me and sharing what is now an important moment for both of us. I am gratified to learn that I had a positive influence on you and wish you the very best with your writing, your work with elementary readers and your eventual retirement.