Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.


Two weeks ago. I paid tribute to the teachers who change our lives one day, one lesson and one inspiring word at a time. I invited readers to write me about the teachers who most deeply and enduringly influenced the course of their lives. From the billowy mailbag of your responses, here are three:

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: In the fall of 1960, three newly teenaged males (Tom, Al and I) sat next to each other in the back row of a 9th grade Honors English/Social Studies class taught by a young teacher, Claire Tremaine.

We were, truth be told, mildly obnoxious, as shown when Al nicknamed her “Flash” — and it stuck. Later in the year, she approached us and placed an Irish curse on us (in jest?): “You will all grow up to be English teachers, and you will each have students just like you!”

She was spot on. Tom taught English and counseled in the South Bay for over 35 years; Al became a lawyer before transitioning to his true calling in the classroom, where he also taught for nearly 30 years and I taught English at Helix High — in the same classroom, I might add — for 36 of my 38-year teaching career.

Dr. Tremaine encouraged us to think outside the curriculum box, to be creative, to engage young minds in the world of “What if….” I had other mentors — Dr. Ellen Hall, Senior English, and Dr. McCoy, SDSU Irish Literature, who inspired me, but it all started with a “Flash.”

I have been retired for 10 years now, but I still get together with Claire Tremaine and a few other like-minded crazy thinkers to discuss books, poems, travel and the world at large over a glass of wine. And I remain in contact with over 50 former students — now teachers, lawyers, small business owners and the like — who, I hope, got some sort of spark from their time with me!

Howard Estes, Point Loma


DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: Your column about National Teacher Appreciation Week had me reminiscing about all the wonderful teachers I had growing up in Massachusetts. One such person, who gave me an opportunity that opened my eyes, was my high school math teacher, Mr. Conrad.

It was the late 1960’s. I found that I loved geometry. It seemed easy to me. I was getting A’s on all my exams. My teacher asked to speak to me after class. I was petrified!

He told me about the Math Club, a team representing our high school that traveled to other high schools for math competitions. He said I would be great as the geometry representative.

I couldn’t believe he was saying this — join a traveling team of pocket-protector-wearing geeks? All boys by the way. I slept on it and decided to do it! There I was, the only girl on the bus, complete with pencil box, slide rule and protractor. I don’t remember seeing any girls from the other schools.

Mr. Conrad had to constantly give me a pep talk before each competition. I remember winning some and losing some. But my best memory is of Mr. Conrad giving me the opportunity to shine in an area uncommon to girls.

He became the principal of Chelmsford High School. I went on to become a Vice President of Human Resources at Hewlett Packard Co. I credit this man as one of the key people in my life. He gave me the courage to do something outside social norms.

-Karen Connolly, Rancho Bernardo


DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: Sixth grade, San Ysidro Elementary School, 1938-39. Mrs. Mattie Corbett did not tolerate dullards. In her class you studied, progressed and behaved. I thought her the meanest, most demanding teacher I had ever experienced.

But she had us reading and thinking, and we learned. She insisted that I, at age 11 and 12, read the short stories of Jack London and Rudyard Kipling and, for good measure, a novel by Fennimore Cooper.

I hated her cutting into my life of marbles, kite flying and baseball. It wasn’t until high school that I realized my debt to her. During my 40 years as a secondary teacher in San Diego, my students thought me the meanest, most demanding teacher they had ever experienced. Throughout that career, not a day passed that I did not offer silent orisons to Mrs. Mattie Corbett for her demands back in 1938-39.

John J. Bowman, La Mesa