EVANSTON — Retired Evanston High School English teacher Eric Stemle authored a book that was released earlier this year. “I Was Not the Blossom: Growing with Your Students in a Nurturing Classroom” is a collection of blog entries he wrote mainly for his students’ parents during his last teaching year at EHS before retirement. At the end of every teaching day, Stemle posted entries on his Facebook blog titled “What Steinbeck said.”
The blog was a way to communicate with parents and also with his colleagues whom he coached. It was so successful that ultimately the blog entries became the book. The post on the blog was what was happening in the classroom in real time, Stemle said, and in the book are followed with his reflections that take the content and expand on it with perspective on his teaching career or on the profession of teaching in general.
“I use analogy all through the book as we did in class, hence the title of the book using a garden as the analogy for my classroom and students,” Stemle told the Herald. “Teaching should be organic like a garden. I wasn’t the blossom, my students were, and the environment we created in the classroom was the soil. I was the stem, the support and conduit, that helped them grow and eventually blossom.”
Stemle graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, earning his teaching endorsement from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He taught reading and other exploratory classes in middle school in Green River. Stemle came to Evanston in 1999 and was an instructional coach for other teachers for 25 years. For his last nine years at EHS, he also taught students college English.
As stated on the back of his book, Stemle has had an impressive career: “During his 41-year career, Eric Stemle served as a teacher, a coach, an instructional facilitator, and a member and head of various committees and commissions, including the Wyoming Professional Teaching Standards Board, which he chaired for three years. In 2003, he was named Wyoming Teacher of the Year.”
Other teachers and former students kept asking Stemle when he was going to write a book about teaching, and he told them he just didn’t have time while he was still working. So when he retired and the possibility came up once again, Stemle said a hang-up for him writing a book was that he didn’t really feel he had an audience.
“Then I hit upon the idea of addressing the book toward college students in the education department and teachers early in their careers,” he said. “That really helped me, and I started writing the reflections in second-person. That gave me the chance to encourage the reader especially when I wrote about difficult times in my own career. I had taught for 41 years and it takes a while to get to where you think things are going well.”
Stemle is self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing with Amazon. The book is sold as print-on-demand and can be ordered directly from Amazon. He said he also plans to direct market the book to college education departments.
A story about Stemle and his book will be featured in the Wyoming Education Association’s spring publication and also in an article in a Michigan State University publication.
The faculty at Davis Middle School is reading the book and Stemle said he is excited to hear their comments about it.
“My main goal in writing the book was not to write a technical manual on how to teach,” he said, “but to give the reader a source of inspiration and encouragement. I found as I was writing to new teachers, I was talking to them a lot like how I talked to my teenage students. I wanted to provide the same safe and supportive environment for the reader as I did for my students.”