Mrs. McLain taught me how to write. Before her, all of my English teachers gave me As based on style alone; she was the first teacher to heavily critique my writing. She had high expectations and her most effective tool in helping me rise to the occasion was her essay feedback, which was firm and concise. Although she had tens of dozens of essays to grade, she was always able to promptly hone in on the key areas where growth was needed and she knew exactly which questions would prompt that reflection and growth. Through that, she taught me how to write with precision, purpose, and my own unique perspective. When my Into the Wild essay showed that I had grown into the writer we both wanted me to be, she celebrated me in front of the class for my content and arguments. The year I spent with her was the year I grew the most in my writing. She singlehandedly prepared me for the writing needs I'd face in college, where I was surprised to learn that the only difference was the source material and that I already gained the skills I needed to succeed from her class.
I took AP Language with Ms Gatewood in 2008 as a student who “liked” English class because I liked reading and writing, though I had no real identity as either. By the end of the semester I had a few more tricks up my sleeve. She could assign any essay without causing me too much fear, because she had given me a strategy. I have since earned two degrees in English and though I hope my writing has improved, my strategy has not changed all that much. I am now an English teacher, and I cannot instruct a student on selecting evidence or using ethos, pathos or logos without thinking of Ms Gatewood. She is a master of the fundamentals and teaches skills that can be transferred to any writing task. Beyond the essentials, Ms Gatewood has a gift for teaching students these skills in a way that they can take ownership of them and develop their own voices as writers. I am sure I knew how to make an argument, embed a few quotes and support my reasoning prior to taking her class, but suddenly I could do those things with a little more confidence and purpose. The reason my transformation was so dramatic is because she went to great lengths to get to know me as an individual, and instructed me based on that knowledge. She truly shows up for her students as individuals and caters to their needs. Over a decade after being in her class I still find myself going to her for advice and feeling guilty when I don’t update her on my life from time to time.
I have never connected with any other teacher the way I did with Mrs. McLain. When I started in AP Literature, I felt like I was in over my head. I had barely been able to complete our summer project and questioned dropping the class for an easier alternative. Mrs. McLain’s energy was what kept me from dropping the class. Mrs. McLain brings enthusiasm, compassion and humor to the classroom. Throughout the class, I felt myself improving in ways I was never able to realize in myself before. I was a better writer, a more critical thinker and an eager student. The way Mrs. McLain taught me to write is what put me at the top of my classes in college. Professors graded my rough drafts and were impressed with my complex theses and critical analyses. What felt like a difficult class I needed on my resume for college became an exciting challenge I was not afraid to complete. While it is clear the way Mrs. McLain impacted my writing skills, she impacted me on a personal level. She was such a role model in the way she connected with every student and spoke passionately about anything you wanted to talk to her about. It gives me goosebumps to think about the way she helped me launch myself into so many successes. Every student deserves the opportunity to work with a teacher and mentor like Mrs. McLain.
Barbara McLain is the rare kind of teacher who doesn’t just follow a curriculum but motivates her students to both think critically and to engage creatively with reading and writing. Like plenty of high school students, I was aimless and unmotivated, doing the bare minimum in my classes to earn just decent enough grades to gain entry into college. It was through her English classes that I fell in love with literature and composition, and honed in on reading and writing skills that would serve me well in my professional career. I was never a big reader, but Barbara taught me to see the art in literature, and I soon found myself devouring books left and right. And it was in her English language and composition class where I first found a writing voice that was uniquely my own. Skills that served me well in college, where I ended up majoring in English and graduated with honors. Since then, I’ve made a successful career as a journalist, most recently at the investigative politics magazine Mother Jones, where I work full-time in the newsroom, reporting on politics and corruption. I can proudly say that my professional path started in Barbara’s classrooms.
Mrs. McLain is the English teacher that I'm always going to remember, and I firmly believe that I wouldn't be where I am today without her help. She brought life to the classroom and inspired her students to want to be there every single day. She built me up so that each time I completed an essay assignment, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I have carried what I learned in her classroom with me through many stages of my life - from college admissions essays to medical school applications and ultimately OB/GYN residency placement. Most physicians face challenges when we write medical papers because while we are trained to think about the science, we are not trained to write a story about the science. Thanks to Mrs. McLain, I am able to tell my stories to the world. She gave me the gift of being able to take pen to paper to express my deepest thoughts and emotions, and she taught me how truly eloquent the written word can be.
-Annam Abbasi, MD
Reminiscing on a year spent with Mrs. McLain gives me goosebumps because I truly believe she played an integral role in getting me where I am today. The idea of writing THE college essay, the one that can make or break your application, made me so nervous. Not to mention, I am a first-generation student, meaning my parents did not go to college. I couldn’t ask them for help, so I relied on Mrs. McLain’s guidance. That’s really all I needed. I remember the day she said it was time to start writing. Of course, I had the typical essay template in the back of my mind, but I found myself writing from my heart. Though I was applying to 16 schools, I had one school in mind - Wake Forest University. So I typed and typed hoping it would be good enough to get me in. Once my rough (very rough) draft was complete, I handed it over to Mrs. McLain. Obviously, when you hand over something so personal, you can feel vulnerable. It wasn’t like that with Mrs. McLain. I felt safe and grateful that she was taking the time to dig deep and help me come up with the best essay I could write. When she handed it back to me, I remember her notes around my pages. She explained every note she made to me, and she guided me in thinking outside of the box. I never felt judged for what I wrote - it was the epitome of constructive criticism (but in Mrs. McLain’s own, gentle way). As I worked to come up with my final draft, I recall spending time with Mrs. McLain one-on-one to talk about my essay. Sometimes it was during class, but if she ran out of time, she would let me come during lunch. She would easily sacrifice her only alone time to help her students, and I know she will continue impacting high school seniors through her virtual platform. My story has a happy ending - I submitted my college essay, along with the hundreds of other things they asked for. Shortly after, I received my acceptance letter from Wake Forest University. I have recently graduated and learned so many things from the professors I met along the way, but I will never forget the passion and dedication Mrs. McLain had for teaching.
I am a Brand Director for Procter and Gamble and I had the honor to be a student of Ms. Gatewood during my high school years. I was an immigrant who just moved to the states from Taiwan, and English is not my first language. I am very fortunate to have met an English teacher who was extremely patient and thoughtful, willing to take the effort teaching and coaching me through my learning journey in English. After 15 years, I still remember vividly the way Ms. Gatewood told me how to extract the personal experiences and/or the essences of a literature and transform them into a piece of writing that can demonstrate strong points of view with a proper artfulness in the language. As a student who had minimal foundation in English language, Ms. Gatewood was willing to take extra time to coach me throughout the semesters. As a result, I was able to transcend from a student who was not able to write in an unfamiliar language, to graduating as a top student in AP Language. Further, I was able to write the strong essays that got me into the University of Michigan with nearly a full ride.The language foundation I received from Ms. Gatewood was essential for not only my college admission, but also my future development in college and my career. I am very thankful to what Ms. Gatewood had done for me, and deeply honored to be her student.
I'll be the first to admit that writing did not come naturally to me: I found more comfort in numbers and statistics than metaphors and parts of speech. But one thing I did know about writing is that no matter what you're interested in or comfortable with, you need to be able to communicate your ideas. As a former student of Barbara's, I look back at her as an incredible resource that taught me to bring structure, organization, body, and life to my ideas. Her experience in and aptitude for helping young people discover how to express what they think, what they know, and what they feel was profound then and I'm sure has only grown. Look no further for a trusted advisor to help your student's ideas and experiences come to life.
Mrs. Barbara McLain was my AP Lang teacher at Wootton High School and she taught me the foundations of rhetoric and how to write and support a powerful persuasive argument. Writing is not an easy skill to teach, and Mrs. McLain successfully does so through her application of essay structure, emphasis on knowing your audience, and her invaluable edits. I have applied these skills to writing multiple personal statements, essays, and cover letters while applying for medical school, residency, and most recently to obtain a job within a large, well-known hospital system. Mrs. McLain has been an incredible teacher who has made such a lasting impression on me and on my writing.
-Anna Pham, MD
Ms. McLain is and always has been a phenomenal English teacher. As a high school student in a class like AP Language, I would usually expect that my teachers would be too busy to really deep dive into every single paper. I generally expected to get a few generic comments since they had so many to look through. Ms. McLain, however, always returned every essay I wrote with very specific feedback, both positives and areas for growth. It was so clear that she took her time reading every essay and actively wanted her students to improve throughout the whole year. Anytime I had follow-up questions, she was always willing to meet and clarify. You would be hard pressed to find someone who cared more about their students’ achievement. I became a better writer when she was my teacher. I often received comments from my college professors about how great and succinct my writing was and I truly owe most of that to the guidance of Ms. McLain. I will forever be grateful to have had such a knowledgeable teacher.
I was in Barbara's English class for three years during high school. I was thrilled every semester when I found out I would be in her class. Barbara was an amazing teacher who was always energetic and engaged during class. She was also available outside of class if a student needed to talk - about school or home life. I am pretty sure I utilized her in that capacity a few times! When it came time to write college application essays, she provided me with a lot of support and guidance. She not only edited my essays but she really encouraged me to think about the prompts, draw on and utilize my personal experiences, and be creative. She was always thorough and patient when we had sessions to review and edit my essays and I always left feeling confident and proud of my writing. I would absolutely utilize Barbara's skillset again for any writing and editing needs!
One of the hallmarks of a great teacher is how well a student can retain a skill long after the specific lesson plan has been forgotten. I had the pleasure of having Mrs. McLain for AP Language 12 years ago. One of the units her class covered was the modes of persuasion: pathos, ethos, and logos. For the life of me, 12 years later, I couldn’t tell you the difference between pathos, ethos, and logos. But I could tell you that I use each of them on a daily basis. I now have a career in political consulting where I help develop persuasive messages. I may not remember the specifics of Mrs. McLain’s lesson, but to the degree that I’m successful, it is in large part thanks to the skills that Mrs. McLain developed in me.
-Andy Van Wye
When I was a student, Mrs. McLain made an instant connection with our classroom. She related to the students very easily and tried her best to make English as engaging as possible. Thanks to her I developed strong analytical writing skills that have made a meaningful difference in many aspects of my professional life. Not only that, she also helped instill a deep curiosity and appreciation for the English subject. Reading literature has never been the same.
As a teacher, there was simply nobody better at motivating her students than Ms. Gatewood. Her ability to encourage kids to write in creative, outside-the-box ways allowed us to break the norm of traditional, methodical essay writing and truly stand out. College essays were crucial for students to distinguish themselves from thousands of other kids who may otherwise appear the same on an application. Ms.Gatewood knew how to get her students to write in an authentic and effective way to not only appeal to prospective universities, but also future employers. Hands down, one of the most important teachers I've ever had the privilege of learning from.
I was lucky enough to have Ms. Gatewood as my teacher for AP Lang in high school. It was one of my first AP classes, and it was in the subject that caused me the most anxiety. But lucky for me, Ms. Gatewood was one of the best teachers I could have asked for to help ease me into learning a difficult subject at an advanced level. She helped all of her students to feel more comfortable with writing (a big thing for me because writing, particularly in a time limit like AP Fridays, was daunting in my eyes) and created an environment that fostered enjoyment of whatever texts we were reading and analyzing. Whereas with some teachers, you can tell that the subject they are teaching is not necessarily the subject they are most passionate about outside of the classroom, with Ms. Gatewood, it was abundantly clear that she loved English, in particular the analysis and critical discussion over written works. This passion was infectious and helped to make me and all the other students in her class actually enjoy learning her favorite subject. Lastly, and probably one of the most important things from my perspective, was that because of her kindness and openness, Ms. Gatewood never made her students afraid to ask questions during class, approach her with questions after class, or ask for help writing a paper; she was also always happy to go over a graded paper to explain where things could be improved and to just have a productive discussion over the critiques made to our essays. She definitely helped improve my critical writing skills and helped me to not only pass my AP exam, but to achieve a 5 on it. I really did love having Ms. Gatewood as my teacher and she was a big reason as to why I was able to be more comfortable in a class on a subject that had previously always made me so uncomfortable.
Ms. Gatewood is an amazing teacher who is supportive and cares about her students. She has a phenomenal rapport with her students creating a safe and effective learning environment. Her love of literature is evident and contagious when she is facilitating engaging discussion in class. She is dedicated to helping students improve their writing. She always made time to work with students individually and really got to know her students strengths to provide meaningful feedback. Ms. Gatewood’s class not only made me feel more confident as a writer, but also strengthened my critical thinking skills and ability to analyze information. These skills have transcended my academic career and are skills that I use everyday. I was very lucky to have Ms. Gatewood as my teacher in high school. My decision to enter into the field of education was impacted by wonderful teachers like her, who fostered a desire to learn and challenge myself. -Catherine Yi
It is hard to believe a high school English teacher I had over 10 years ago would still stand out in my mind and this is no doubt the sign of an educator that went above and beyond her job's responsibilities to make a lasting impact on her students. Ms. Gatewood took the challenging coursework of AP Lang and not only made it easy to comprehend, she also made it enjoyable. After being in her class, I had a new appreciation for uncovering the deeper meaning of a text. Beyond our coursework, she was a tremendous support and helped reduce my stress during the college application process. She selflessly offered her free time during the school day, including her lunch break, to any student wanting assistance with brainstorming essay topics and later providing editing suggestions. Ms. Gatewood truly shaped my educational experience in high school and prepared me to be successful in my undergraduate, graduate studies and my career as a PA. I cannot give her enough thanks!