A Teacher's Tale

A Memoir

It was never in author Joe Gilliland’s plan to become a teacher, certainly not a college teacher and most certainly not an English teacher. But that’s what happened, and he’s never looked back.

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Joe Gilliland

about the author

joe gilliland

Joe Gilliland earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in English from the University of Texas, Austin, then later earned a doctorate in English from Arizona State University.

Gilliland has been an educator for more than 50 years, the majority of that time spent at the community college and university level, where he believes the “real teaching happens.” Gilliland is now retired and currently resides in Bisbee, Arizona, with his wife, Bettie.

about the book

A Teacher's Tale

It was never in author Joe Gilliland’s plan to become a teacher, certainly not a college teacher and most certainly not an English teacher. But that’s what happened, and he’s never looked back. In A Teacher’s Tale, he explains how by neither planning for nor seeking a life of learning and teaching, lacking a syllabus or lesson plan, he discovered that a life in academe lay in his path-a path he’s followed for more than fifty years. A Teacher’s Tale begins in 1932 with Gilliland’s first experiences in schooling and concludes in the summer of 1955 just as he completes his apprenticeship and stands on the brink of becoming a qualified instructor in a small college in east Texas. This memoir presents a collection of stories about his experiences as a teacher and a college student.

A story of schooling deeply immersed in the arts and humanities, A Teacher’s Tale shares Gilliland’s love of the university and how it compelled him to seek a life devoted to teaching, primarily in the community college arena. Through this narrative, he brings together a philosophy of higher education based on the importance of arts and humanities in today’s high-tech world.

Alan Meyer, Author, A Dog’s Choice, Right and Wrong

A Useful Fiction

“Joe Gilliland found the joy of sharing ideas faster than Adam and Eve found the exit in the garden. Now, in A Teacher’s Tale, he spreads that joy for those who didn’t have the good fortune of meeting him on campus.”

Howard A. Dewitt, PhD, Emeritus Professor, History,

Ohlone College

“An inspiring story of the love of learning and teaching. This graceful memoir traces a journey from the humble roots in Texas, through Japan and back, ending in Arizona. Those not fortunate enough to have had Joe Gilliland in class should read A Teacher’s Tale.”

John Monnett, Emeritus Professor of History

Metropolitan State University of Denver

“Joe Gilliland’s personal dimension of learning and teaching is more than a lifelong story of evolving pedagogy. His eloquent prose gives us a meaning to life itself and restores my faith in the significance of the personal memoir.”

Richard L. Weaver

I have a disclaimer to make before this review and I am happy that I can make it. Joe is a friend of mine; his son and I graduated from high school together. And I consider myself very fortunate to have been one of his students. He may say he taught by irritation, but Joe taught me with enchantment and a selection of readings that lit a fire under me that is still not quenched. Read More

Joel P. Borowiec

"A teacher's Tale: A Memoir" begins with an intellectually curious young man, then through some college, to the enlisted Army in Germany right at the end of WWII, then to Korea, back to school followed by several years teaching in Japan. Following this voyage of discovery, hallway around the world, Dr. Gilliland finds his true calling and first love - teaching, and also learns two secrets... Read More

Robert M.

Joe Gililland's book is more than a professional memoir. Volume I is a personal journey through a tumultuous time in history - from the Great Depression, to World War II Germany while the sounds of battle still echoed, to Korea during the contentious interlude before that war, and to American occupied postwar Japan. For the author it was also a period of self-discovery, from conservative Texas to liberal New York City and refinement of his social and political attitudes. Read More

Rafa Peterson

An outstanding book. You will see the passion and perception of a teacher. Read More

Amazon Customer

Wonderful book by the best teacher I ever had. Read More


Many elements make good teachers, and learners – and the lifetime process never stops. That is the most evident, memorable message in A Teacher’s Tale by Joe Gilliland (True Directions.) Defining instructors and students in a broad sense, Gilliland appeals to both academic and informal audiences, but his book--an obese 611+ pages--can be a nourishing and healthy look in minute detail at how a youngster discovers and nurtures his love of learning, kindles his thirst for ideas in both the sciences and literature, makes classroom contacts and assembles life experiences. Read More

Warren johansen

Dr Joe Gilliland is a rare individual. He is an award winning college professor who is also an acclaimed writer. In A Teacher's Tale he weaves the story of his youth, his father's early death, his intellectual awakening, his growth as a student, his eventual emergence as an embryo literary scholar, his years in the American military in Japan and he caps this lengthy, but well written and interesting memoir, with an analysis of the forces shaping his life. This book is over 600 pages of sheer intellectual and academic joy. Read More


If you are not a bibliophile, don't choose this book. This is a story of a man and his odyssey as mirrored through the literature that sculpted his life. Yes, if you're a WWII veteran, it will have an appeal as well. Gilliland's memory for details is what gives the book its personality and flair. If you are a budding literatus or a sage of the written word, if you are pedant of the by-ways of academia or simply a casual pedestrian on the pleasant road of life/literary experience, this is a wonderful biography. Read More

Max E Schoenhals

I had high expectations for this book, having been a colleague of Dr. Joe. Had this book been just a collection of memories, it could have stood on its own merits; the stories are wonderful. But, it is so much more! It shows us that life is more than the sum of our days, and that teaching is more than an occupation. Our lives are made richer by each relationship we nurture and every person we inspire. This book is ideal for the young person leaving for college, or the college student trying to decide on a major, and most certainly the young teacher, new to the profession. Read More

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