In his latest novel, The Path of the Wind, James Misko takes readers on a journey to a small town in Oregon in 1957. A young, benevolent teacher is just beginning his career in the quiet, rural town of Tamarack. As he navigates his way through new challenges, it will no doubt remind readers of their own transformative experiences with cherished teachers.
The young teacher, Miles Foster, has just been assigned the music and social studies classes at the tiny local high school. Unfamiliar with the Oregonian terrain and the school community that he and his pregnant wife, Eleanor, find themselves in, he is still eager to make an impression upon the minds of his new students.
So he does. He pitches in — helping a student get a job following graduation, revitalizing the school band, teaching the younger students to be kind to stray animals. And he reveals himself to be an unconventionally caring teacher who is deeply concerned with the academic, social, and emotional growth of his students. But clashes are coming.
His non-traditional approach to education comes into conflict with the school’s rigid superintendent and school board, who have a strong disdain for innovative teaching methods and do not seem to be interested in engaging the students at all. Where Miles is avid to kindle creative fires he sees in the hearts and minds of the Tamarack kids, the school administrators and fellow teachers are only enthusiastic about the bureaucratic goals. It’s a telling rift — between a gifted educator and a stifling administration.
Misko skillfully paints a portrait of a person that may well be familiar to many of us: a passionate teacher. Filled with carefully chosen details and distinct voices, the author transports us back to a desk in the classroom of the teachers we most revered as young ones. Misko, as it turns out, was himself a teacher, a fact that gives his storytelling an extra punch of realism. We can sense his own affection for the small town of Tamarack — and the pressures on a young teacher and his burgeoning family.
This is an inspiring story, a classic tale of trying to expand a small town’s rigid boundaries and change children’s lives for the better. As we follow Miles along The Path of the Wind, we find ourselves rooting for him every step of the way.