A Farewell To Fran

By on June 2, 2016

FranBookAs school comes to a close for the summer, so does Fran Young’s career at Verona High School. I’m sure it’s a happy day for her (and for her family), but it’s a sad day for those students who will never have the opportunity to have her as an English teacher. They will never know what a wonderful teacher she is.

I am one of the lucky ones. I had Mrs. Young twice in Verona High School. She was my English teacher my freshman year, as well as my junior year when I took AP English, which was a two-year course then. To this day I still say those two years of AP English taught me more than any college English course I took or could have taken. The joint forces of Mrs. Young (junior year) and Mr. Luks (senior year) forever changed me. When I look back on those two years (and I still do, despite the fact that it has been over 20 years), I read classics that most people might not. I learned how to write for my audience. Mrs. Young liked essays that were short and to the point, and you could easily get away with a paper that was three paragraphs long–as long as those paragraphs covered what needed to be said. On the other hand, Mr. Luks liked essays that went on page after page. You could NEVER write enough and I can remember going back to his class after school to write more whenever we had a test. AP English was a challenge. There were no multiple choice answers; you had to write to prove your point. And you learned to write well. (Something I hope I still carry with me. Although I write in a more conversational tone, I’d like to think that I could still pour out a formal essay that might pass Mrs. Young’s eye.)

My freshman year Mrs. Young introduced our class to literature that I would never forget. There was The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst, which taught me all about symbolism. Romeo and Juliet was my introduction to Shakespeare. Dickens’ Great Expectations introduced me to genres and themes. And then there was To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading it once was not enough; I have read it many times. If it weren’t for Mrs. Young I might not have ever read this gem that has forever influenced the way I think. If only for the introduction to this great novel, Mrs. Young deserves kudos.

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In my junior year I read more literature than I ever read in ANY class. I cannot name everything that we read, as the list would go on too long. There was literature that I loved: Mourning Becomes Electra, The Tempest (one of FOUR Shakespeare plays that I read that year), A Tale of Two Cities and The Great Gatsby. There was literature I didn’t love (which is putting it mildly): The Oresteia, Beowulf and Le Morte d’Arthur. (The last is my fault; I had the stupid idea to compare and contrast this 15th-century work with T.H White’s The Once and Future King; way too much reading and not enough comprehension on my end!)

Mrs. Young’s AP English class was HARD, as it should be. Hers was the first class where I had to read something over summer vacation (The Oresteia, and getting a copy of it in the pre-Internet days was not an easy task.) The first essay that we had to write (it may have been due the first day of school, or if not during that first week), I flunked. Not the best way to start off a class, but I don’t think even the best in the class got better than a C. (And there were quite a few exceptional students in my class.) But we pushed through. We learned to write well. We read A LOT! (Including some really smutty Elizabethan poetry; I can’t remember the name of the poem or the poet, but I’ll never forget the imagery of the suitor’s desire to be a vine creeping up the maiden’s thigh.) I came away with knowledge and a deep passion for literature. (I don’t think I’m alone in that.)

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Mine are the memories of just one student. After teaching for 39 years; how many other memories there must be. Fran Young has touched the lives of countless others. She made an incredible impact on mine and I know I cannot be alone.

Mrs. Young, you have worked hard for many years. You have given so much to so many, more than you could even imagine. I wish you well in your much deserved retirement. (Of course I also wish you would have waited a few more years so that my son would have the opportunity to learn from you, but…)

I think it only fitting to conclude with this (from Twelfth Night, Act III, Scene 3):

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks…”

Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than three years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.

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2 Comments

  1. Kim McNinch

    June 3, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Mrs Young
    You taught me how to spell- read and write-
    I was one of the lucky ones to have you for my teacher …
    Have a wonderful retirement !
    Kim
    You Class student of 1977

  2. Lynn (Roberson) Verrego

    June 12, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Mrs. Young,

    It’s been many years since I have walked the halls of VHS, but I will always remember your class. Thank you for helping me to appreciate the classics and thank you for helping me develop as a writer. I often think of you, and many of the wonderful VHS teachers, when I work with my own students.

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