Residing in East Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains, Mr. Leonard teaches five different writing classes at TPS, including English 1, 2, and 3 (Confident Composition). The author of a novel, The Evangelist in Hell, Mr. Leonard loves creative writing and encourages young people to write. He is married and has two children, one of whom was born last year.
Grace: Thank you so much for letting me feature you for clay! First off, why did you first decide to teach at TPS?
Mr. Leonard: I used to live in Michigan, and one of my friends there introduced me to Mrs. Frederick. It’s mostly Mrs. Fred’s fault that I started at TPS. I’ve stayed because I love the students’ curiosity and work ethic. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world.
Grace: What courses do you teach?
Mr. Leonard: Writing Fundamentals 6, English 1, E1 Grammar Supplement, English 2, and English 3 Confident Composition. I used to tutor in the EFL-A program, too.
Grace: What are some of your hobbies?
Mr. Leonard: Running, hiking, writing, podcasting, and having deep conversations about philosophy and theology with guys from my church.
Grace: What are your favorite books?
Mr. Leonard: So many! Favorite nonfiction book—Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Favorite fantasy novel—The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Favorite literary novel—Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. Favorite grammar book—Woe is I by Patricia O’Conner. (What? You don’t have a favorite grammar book?)
Grace: What do you enjoy more—reading or writing?
Mr. Leonard: Hmm…that’s tough because they go together. My writing improves when I read, and I’m a better reader when I think carefully about the author’s writing style. If I have to choose, I’ll say writing because it gives me more of a challenge.
Grace: What is your pet peeve?
Mr. Leonard: Clickbait on YouTube, or when a YouTuber makes a fifteen-minute video for something they could have explained in thirty seconds.
Grace: What is your favorite Bible verse?
Mr. Leonard: Isaiah 61:1-3
Grace: What is your favorite song?
Mr. Leonard: So hard to choose, but one of my go-to jams is “Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz.
Grace: Who is your favorite author?
Mr. Leonard: C.S. Lewis. I know that’s a cliché Christian answer, but I admire how well he wrote for different audiences in all genres. Many of his books were influential in my own coming to faith.
Grace: Which type of writing is your favorite?
Mr. Leonard: Fiction, specifically magical realism.
Grace: What is a random fun fact about you?
Mr. Leonard: People here know me as an English teacher, but I taught Spanish before I came to TPS.
Grace: Why did you stop teaching Spanish?
Mr. Leonard: Well, I took a job teaching Spanish right out of college because it was easy to get hired in that department. I’ll give some encouragement to all you bilingual students—using your multiple-language background will open a lot of doors. I love creative writing, so I was glad to switch over to that when I came to TPS.
Grace: How many years have you been teaching writing?
Mr. Leonard: Longer than you’ve been alive.
Grace: What is your favorite and your least favorite thing about teaching writing?
Mr. Leonard: Favorite—seeing students form deep convictions about topics they previously hadn’t considered. Least favorite—explaining MLA format. It’s a necessary evil of academic writing, but it’s not fun for anyone.
Grace: What is your favorite and least favorite food?
Mr. Leonard: Favorite—fried chicken Least favorite—cabbage
Grace: What would you do with the money if you won the lottery?
Mr. Leonard: I’d start a nonprofit to support equal access to high-quality education and promote youth writing through contests and scholarships.
Grace: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mr. Leonard: For a long time I wanted to be an actor.
Grace: If you had to remove one color from the world, what would it be?
Mr. Leonard: The nasty grayish-brown of dirty snow that piles up on city streets all winter. Part of why I moved south was to escape it.
Grace: What are you proud of but never have an excuse to talk about?
Mr. Leonard: I’ll give a shout out to my kids, Isaac and Owen. I’m proud of them.
I had such a wonderful time interviewing Mr. Leonard, and I wish him the best in the upcoming school year.