I logged into GP6, excited about the first day of Creative Writing with Janis Gaines, who also taught English 3 Foundations and a summer course called Writing Traits. As I entered the classroom, Ms. Gaines opened up the time with a welcome. “Let’s all introduce ourselves, starting with our names, birthdays, and interesting facts,” Ms. Gaines said once greetings were over.
We all introduced ourselves over the microphone, and then it was Ms. Gaines’ turn. “I was born in 1970 in Atlanta, Georgia, where I lived in the same brick house for 20 years. I was raised by Christian parents and baptized at 14. But it was in my college years where I like to say I ‘fell in love with God.’ I attended Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where I started a political science major but switched to an English degree after about a year.”
“I moved around a lot as an adult, studied overseas, and even witnessed the Berlin Wall fall in Germany! Currently, I live in Tryon, North Carolina, with two dogs. I have three grown children who live in different states and with whom I keep in touch, thanks to technology and Facetime, as well as two adorable grandchildren. Both of my parents still live in Atlanta, where I like to visit them frequently.”
“Some interesting facts about me,” she continued, “are that I bullet journal…”
I wrote in the chat, “That must be so fun!”
“It is!” Ms. Gaines agreed, “I’m a really big believer in honoring your life’s own history. I mean, just imagine when future generations stumble across it online! Blogging has really brought specific areas in my life into focus and helped me set new goals and dreams.”
“Some other interesting facts about myself are that I love to read and try out new recipes. I’m a wannabe painter and gardener, and a vegan, which I love practicing! Poetry and the movie Pride and Prejudice are close second favorites,” Ms. Gaines added.
“Ooh!” I wrote in the chat, “what’s your favorite animal and book?”
“The elephant,” Ms. Gaines replied, “and choosing a favorite book is hard. But Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is an excellent allegory for young people. The book really enriched my spiritual journey in college. Anything else?”
A guy named Josiah wrote, “Funny stories!!” Another student simultaneously wrote “Favorite Bible verse!”
Ms. Gaines laughed and stated, “Oh, I’ve got plenty of those. Once, a student sent me a thank you note and actually diagrammed one of his sentences to show me he remembered and pointed out that he didn’t use BE verbs.”
“As for my favorite Bible verse, Psalm 23:6a begins to mean a lot when you’ve lived a little a longer in life and made even more mistakes. I have faced many difficult trials and tribulations–some I didn’t know if I would ever make it through–and yet, here I am! God is a redeemer. He will turn water into wine, darkness to light, and even death to life. It is His way. It is what He does best. ”
The chat was drowned in laughs and “awws” for both of her statements.
Ms. Gaines decided to start class. While she was giving an overview of the class, my pessimistic self groaned, “I do not expect second semester to be easier.”
Ms. Gaines saw the chat and said, “I think in second semester, things do get easier, actually. You guys will be familiar with me and my expectations and will have made some new friends. Besides, there are more breaks to look forward to.”
Throughout the year, I saw how compassionate, intelligent, and creative Ms. Gaines was, with her introverted yet outgoing personality.
I also learned this acronym from Ms. Gaines: HOPE—Hold On, Pain Ends. “I know times are tough for a teenager, with so many new fears, worries, heartaches, and uncertainties. But don’t give up hope. No matter how difficult life may seem at times, it will always change, and it can get better. At every turn, choose faith, hope, and love. Hopefully, though I might’ve been your teacher for a year, I will be a friend for life.”