Interview with Ms. Tammy Wolinsky
The following is an interview done with my former Language Arts teacher, Ms. Wolinsky. We have taken seats facing each other in the school library, and I tune out my classmate’s chatter in order to focus on the interview.
1) What is your present state of mind?
Well that’s a pretty heavy question. What do you mean, how am I feeling? Umm I feel great, I’m super happy and open and relaxed.
2) What made you decide to go into teaching?
Umm that’s a long story. So I was uh…pursuing…radio and television and film in Los Angeles. And when I was working in Los Angeles in order to make a living I was working in a juvenile detention facility with incarcerated teenagers. And at the same time I was applying to law school never thinking that I was going to be a teacher. Umm…and I got into law school and I flew to New York to take a couple of classes and just sort of realize that I had really fallen in love with working with youth and teenagers and all of the stuff was fueling me in writing and film I could do in the classroom. All that creative kind of stuff. So I changed course and I flew back to L.A. and applied for my masters teaching degree. It was really because of the students I was working with inspired me to kind of change course. That’s how I fell into it- almost accidentally.
3) Do you consider yourself to be a role model?
Huh. I don’t know. I guess teachers kind of are, you never really know who you’re influencing or who’s going to remember you or what they’re going to remember. So I sometimes have students come to me later after a course or even years later and talk to me about how I inspired them to do something. So in some ways that’s what- that takes the place or a role model but I don’t think of myself as a role model.
4) What age do you wish you could go back to? And why?
I honestly wouldn’t go back to another age. I’m really, really happy at where I am right now. So I wouldn’t necessarily go back to an age. Maybe for a moment I would go back to when I was seventeen. I was travelling the world with one of my best friends and it was just such a happy time, such a freeing time. So maybe I would return to that year.
5) What’s your greatest regret?
My greatest regret? My greatest regret actually was when I was eighteen I stopped dancing to be a competitive dancer. And I most regret quitting
6) Who is your favorite heroine of fiction?
My greatest heroine…oh that’s a good question. It’s, you’re going to find it funny, but I think right now just off the top of my head my greatest heroine is Daenerys from Game of Thrones. (Laughs.) I love her. What is she called? The lady of dragons or whatever. I think she’s an awesome character. Super strong, ambitious, very feminine but speaks her mind.
7) Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Favorite hero…it’s probably Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I know he’s everybody’s favorite but he’s…I still think of him as one of the greatest characters ever written.
8) What is the trait you most admire in your friends?
Their resiliency. So all of my closest girlfriends are incredibly resilient. Strong.
9) What is something you detest the most about individuals?
Hypocrisy. So people who…or, that also goes along with a lack of loyalty. So I don’t enjoy or admire people who say one thing to your face and do another behind your back. That doesn’t- I’m not interested in people who do that.
10) If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
I would definitely change the world’s lack of tolerance. So I think right now, especially in the world, we’re in a really horrible time in history in terms of what’s happening in different parts of the world. And I think that really is just rooted in a lack of tolerance and understanding.
11) What is your greatest achievement?
I think my greatest achievement is that I’ve lived my life by my own terms. So even though at thirty-nine maybe the typical path would have been getting married when I was younger and having children and working a stable job. I’ve just…done everything I’ve ever wanted to do. Despite maybe pressure from the outside to do something different.
12) What is one moment that you would say has changed your life?
I think that first year working in a juvenile detention facility, I think that did change my life. It changed my life in a million different ways where I would end up living, where I would end up travelling, what my career would be, what I’m doing now is connected to that moment working in that. So I was…twenty-four in Los Angeles working in that facility.
13) What childhood story are you most attached to?
The memory I always return to is my grandmother and I used to sit around when she came to visit from Montreal. We used to sit around, she taught me how to play cards- but gamble when I was a little girl. We used to gamble with pennies. She used to have a whole jar of pennies and she used to you know, teach me how to play all sorts of card games. But, it’s only as an adult I realize what that time was. Was we used to just literally do that for hours and she would tell me like all about her life. She did it through storytelling and she’s…she’s most with me all the time. She died many years ago, but that’s the memory I return to a lot.
14) What are the top five things you wish to do before you die?
One of them is to have children. To have a long-lasting relationship. To continue travelling- many, many places that I would still like to travel. To maybe build a career around writing and maybe some painting. You need one more I guess? And…I think that’s all I can think of.
15) What is your motto?
My motto? Surrender. That’s it. Surrender.
Ms. Wolinsky has and continues to be an inspiration to me ever since I stepped into her classroom two years ago to join her A.P. Language Arts class. She has pushed me to my limits countless times, made me strive to be a better writer, and to challenge myself beyond my limits. Her teaching style is still ingrained in some of my writings to this day, and I am forever grateful that I got the chance not only to interview her, but to also have her as a teacher.