Proud Products of Texas Public Schools
Spring Branch High School
Spring Branch ISD
In Kathi Appelt’s childhood home, one side of the garage housed her father’s workbench. “But the other side was just a big blank wall. My mother divided it into three sections. As soon as my sisters and I could hold crayons, we were allowed to express ourselves on that wall in any color or form that we wished. If you stood back and looked at the wall, it was like a record of my growing up. . .The garage wall was a perfect place for expression. Once I started actually writing on paper, I no longer needed the wall. But I still think of it as the place where my earliest writing took place. It was like my first journal, a record of my feelings and experiences.”
From scribbling on her garage wall to becoming a bestselling childrens author, poet, and teacher, Appelt has won dozens of awards for her writing. Other honors she has received include the C.K. Esten Award for Outstanding Student in Theater Arts from Texas A&M University; the Sue German Award for Excellence in Teaching, awarded by the New Jersey Writing Project in Texas; and the Women Who Make a Difference honor, awarded by the Brazos Maternal and Child Health Clinic in Bryan-College Station.
“I think it was the ‘smell’ of school that made me happiest. Chalk, crayons, mimeograph ink, floor wax. The combination of all these smells represented a place that was safe, dependable, sure. I liked the way all of these smells came at me when I opened the door. Even today, when I visit a school, it’s the smell of it that feels so welcoming.
“When I was in the 11th grade, I had an English teacher, Mrs. Franco, who decided to intervene for me. I call her actions an intervention, anyway. When I was 16, I think I was determined to portray myself as an airhead. Smart, but not too smart. But she refused to let me get away with that and instead challenged me to lay claim to my own intelligence. She handed me a copy of William Faulkner’s Sound and Fury. I had to learn how to use a dictionary while I struggled through the pages. But when I was finished with it, I realized what Mrs. Franco had done. She had used Faulkner to help me see that life was more than the color of eyeliner I chose to wear that day or what boy I would go out with that weekend. She helped me realize something integral to myself as a human being, that the world was big and that I could be a player in it. I owe her, and many other teachers as well, a mountain of debt. Now, as a teacher myself, I look for my students’ intelligence and push them to find it.”