Reviews for Lessons Learned And Cherished

by Deborah Roberts

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A procession of well-known people recall a teacher who recognized their worth. “This is not so much a book as it is a love letter to teachers from those who cherish them,” writes ABC News journalist Roberts in the afterword. Almost all the pieces say about the same thing—that specific, targeted praise from a teacher, what we now call “feeling seen,” can be life-changing. There are a few essays that have a slightly different story, often where a teacher's harshness or apparent cruelty had a positive result. Some of the material was constructed from interviews, so that even those attributed to writers like Ann Patchett and Brit Bennett are not particularly well written, and some are very slight indeed. Oprah's comment —“I bow at and to the altar of great teachers. Because without them I would not be the who of who I am”—is an indicator of the general rhetorical level. (Though she does name a few teachers, Oprah claims her eponymous show as her “greatest teacher.”) Perhaps the most intriguing element of the book is the impact of a teacher's appearance on young minds: “Mrs. Dee was a no-nonsense, curvy white woman who favored pants over skirts and dresses”; “She was always well dressed in a suit or a dress, never pants. Her face was powdered, and she always wore lipstick”; “She was a strong, dark-skinned, regal Black woman with a natural, tight afro who was always draped in a flowing African garment.” The many teachers who will doubtless receive this book as a gift will appreciate it, particularly after the pandemic left them “beleaguered and demoralized.” Some of the other contributors include Spike Lee, Brooke Shields, Lucy Liu, Anna Quindlen, Al Roker, Sunny Hostin, Rachael Ray, and Vanessa Williams. The author offers multiple tributes. A well-intentioned but mediocre collection. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.