826 is delighted to announce that Heather Woodward of School of the Arts (SOTA) is our May Teacher of the Month!

Heather has been teaching at SOTA since 1997, and she founded the creative writing program there in 2002.  Students, parents and colleagues sent us a beautifully bound collection of poems, letters, photographs and essays that burbled with enthusiasm and praise for Heather as a teacher and an overall wonderful human being. Heather has been by described as “passionate, inspiring, opinionated, loving, beautiful, devoted, sincere,” and more than any other adjective, “encouraging.”

As a cornerstone in her department, she has created a safe space in which she encourages her students to express themselves freely. Heather’s teaching skills are embodied in the success of her students, whose award-winning work has appeared in publications and on websites all over the country. She encourages her students to participate in San Francisco’s literary scene; they are required to attend poetry and book readings, as well as submit their work to various contests.  Her students also write for and singlehandedly staff umläut, a sophisticated, polished literary magazine.

“Heather pushes her students hard, sets high standards and demands that they give her their best. But her faith in what they can accomplish pushes the kids to deliver,” says one parent. Her critiques are rigorous; students say that she returns rough drafts of their work covered in constructive suggestions and encouragements.  Students write to impress Heather, and in their efforts to impress her, they experience creative and personal growth.

Heather has had a profound impact on the lives of those she has taught, an impact far beyond the scope of academia.  “She is so smart and loves to push her students to take risks and to embrace learning and writing as part of a larger life—like, as much as she wants her students to master critical thinking and investigate their creative potential, she also wants them to grow as humans and to have rad, amazing lives,”  says Michelle Tea, a former artist-in-residence at SOTA.

Eli Wolfe had this to say about his teacher:  “Anything I say about Heather Woodward is true for all of my classmates.  She took the kernel of interest I had in writing and forced it to blossom into a consuming passion.”

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