Person of Interest

Frank McCourt the Teacher

The public may know him as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angela's Ashes, but Frank McCourt, who died Sunday at age 78, was also a champion teacher. A tribute in The New York Times looks at the author's storied career teaching English at high schools in Staten Island and Brooklyn. In addition to telling stories of his impoverished childhood in Ireland, the stories that would later become Angela's Ashes, McCourt would also tell his class "charming hilarious stories about how he tried to play off the maternal instincts of the women he'd meet—making reference to how much laundry he had that needed to be done," one former student said. Another student said McCourt "had us sing salacious folk songs, he had us write courtroom defenses of inanimate objects, and recite recipes as poetry." She continued, "We all thought, 'He's such a genius, what's he doing just teaching us?' Everybody thought he was destined for bigger and better things. And when he became a global phenomenon, we felt it was justice."