My second college class ever was English 101 in fall 2010. I showed up late because I left my map of the Main Building in my other pants pocket. Eventually I made it to the fourth floor of Curtis Hall and met Sheryl Simons.
She had her iconic purple trench coat hung on the back of her seat and one of her many berets on her head to keep her hair in place. She had stacks of paper always covering her entire desk. I wondered if she actually knew how to use a computer.
The first thing she said to us was that the only way to learn how to write was to do it. So we had our first writing assignment due at the end of class about why we chose Drexel.
I wrote more in Sheryl’s class than I did in any of the other freshman writing courses. I probably learned more in Sheryl’s class than I did in any other freshman writing course.
She loved to talk about local history and Chiddy Bang. One day she came in with a sheaf of papers saying it was her research about an Underground Railroad stop on Lancaster Avenue. I had no idea where it was, seeing as she pointed in a random direction to explain to us its whereabouts.
The Pennsylvania Historical Commission declined her request to put a marker in the spot she thought was an Underground Railroad stop. However, given more time, I think she would have been able to prove her theory.
For one of our essays, we had to write about why we chose our major. I wrote about my high school English teacher and how I wanted to get a story published in Rolling Stone magazine so he would read it. Sheryl recommended that I write for The Triangle first.
Who would have thought that a year later, I would be spending four nights a week and hours during the day working on The Triangle?
I wrote an article last winter about how one of Sheryl’s English 102 classes was getting its work published on the Drexel Archives blog. She pestered me to get every detail right and published.
I think she realized how much she got under my skin because she sent me a thank you card. I still have it. “You made my day. Have a good break,” is all it said.
About two months ago I saw Sheryl at the Drexel bus stop to Center City. She hobbled over with her bags of paper and sat next to me. “Production Manager?” she asked me. I was taken aback. I had been in the position for maybe two weeks, and she knew and remembered what it was.
She asked if we could connect via Linkedin, and we talked about the latest project she assigned her English 101 class. Then we both got on the bus, went on our own ways, and I never saw her again.
Sheryl, I may have made your day last winter, but you have made my first year at Drexel completely worthwhile. Judging from the people I spoke to about your life over the past week, you made their time at Drexel too. Thank you.
Helen Nowotnik is a sophomore majoring in communication. She can be reached at [email protected]