Because of Mr. Terupt Summary

Rob Buyea

Because of Mr. Terupt

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Because of Mr. Terupt Summary

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Because of Mr. Terupt (2010), a children’s novel by Rob Buyea, follows an archetypal cast of high school characters, whose lives at school change when they enter fifth grade and encounter a new teacher, Mr. Terupt. Though the class engages in gossip and is quick to form diverse opinions about him with little real knowledge, when several unfortunate events befall Mr. Terupt, they are compelled to reflect on their conceptions of school and certain moral virtues, such as kindness. The novel became popular in the children’s fiction genre for depicting a simple argument for the importance of empathy in American school environments.

The novel begins at the start of fifth grade for the seven main characters, who go to Snow Hill School in a suburb of Connecticut. They include Jessica, an intelligent and reflective girl who is new to the school; Luke, a kind of boy genius; Peter, an incorrigible class clown; Alexia, a two-faced bully who masquerades as helpful and kind to exploit adults’ ignorance; Danielle, a girl who struggles with self-esteem issues; Anna, who has troubles at home that distract her from socialization; and Jeffrey, a truant who feels no need for a formal education.

Mr. Terupt introduces himself to the children, who respond to him differently, but positively. Peter, the resident troublemaker, immediately tests the boundaries of Mr. Terupt’s tolerance. He is surprised to find that Mr. Terupt admonishes him gently rather than resorting to disciplinary action. Anna, who, historically, tends to hover in the background, is surprised at her own confidence as Mr. Terupt gradually encourages her to participate in class conversations. Jessica, who has just moved to Connecticut from California, is relieved to have someone else who is new to relate to. Luke, the brainiac of the fifth-grade class, enjoys Mr. Terupt’s appreciation for creative lessons and projects. Several of the students do not appreciate Mr. Terupt as much. These include Jeffrey, who is too disengaged from school to pay attention; Alexa, whose social life distracts her constantly; and Danielle, who is constantly fending off the antagonistic Alexa.

Eventually, the students get used to Mr. Terupt’s personality and teaching style. He motivates all of them, even Jeffrey, to think about what they want to do with their lives. After they reach a few goals he sets for them, he arranges to throw a party during class. He convinces the principal, Mrs. Williams, to let them play in the snow. On the playground, an unluckily-aimed snowball flies from a brawl, hitting Mr. Terupt. He falls unconscious and is sent to the hospital. News comes back from the doctors: Mr. Terupt is in a coma, having been vulnerable to head injuries after a series of concussions in high school and college during football.

Mr. Terupt’s hospitalization deeply upsets the fifth graders, who all feel complicit in his injury. Despite his absence, they realize that a little bit of Mr. Terupt remains with them, guiding their thoughts and actions as they move on with life. For example, the accident causes Jeffrey to reflect on the bone marrow and stem cell donations he once made to his dying brother. When they failed to save him, he was wracked with guilt. He decides to talk to his parents and work to restore their relationship. Danielle decides to talk to her religious and conservative parents about their rejection and judgment of her friendship with Anna, who was born to a teen mom who gave her up for adoption. Alexia works up the strength to get over certain experiences that were motivating her to constantly lie to and manipulate people just to feel briefly in control. Peter, self-conscious about his learning difficulties, comes to understand that all students learn differently, and even ones who seem to be behind often make up for it in other areas of wisdom.

As the school year comes to an end, the fifth graders remember the positive influence Mr. Terupt had on them. To their surprise, he comes back on the last day of school. Mrs. Williams says that he is moving up to teach them in sixth grade.

Because of Mr. Terupt celebrates the fruits of good teaching, especially the motivation it instills in students to reflect on their desires and experiences. Ultimately, Buyea suggests that even during a teacher’s absence, his or her lessons continue to resonate with the students he has touched.