My aunt, Alice Schlossberg, passed away on Sunday. She was the first Asianist and history teacher in my family, and I will miss her terribly. Perhaps my first real taste of Asian culture — as opposed to Chinese food — was finding Zen Comics in her book collection as a kid.
She was the kind of teacher I never had in high school: rigorous, energetic, smart, inspiring and effective. (I had some of those, but never in one package). Being part of a medium-sized school, she taught US — she was a proud member of the Millard Fillmore Society, she told me — and European history — she had her students simulate the Versailles conference — as well as Asian.
The last few years, Alice had been spending summers getting familiar with new technologies and new scholarship, building web sites with primary and secondary materials for student research projects. She told me about some of the tricks and techniques she used to draw students in, like having them write their responses and interpretations to five minutes of a documentary about the Ganges with the sound off, so there was no voice-over telling them what to think.
Much of what I remember and loved about her has nothing to do with her work — the chocolate chip corn muffins, the penguin collection (her brother — my father — also began collecting penguins as an adult, independently), the incredibly irreverent humor (puns and all) and strong sense of justice, the holidays. The Schlossbergs live in Beverly, just north of Boston, so I got to know the MBTA commuter trains pretty well. They were always welcoming and supportive, and every graduate student should have an aunt and her family in the vicinity, I think.
We will miss her, and I hope that I can continue to grow as a teacher until I feel like I’ve lived up to her example.