A few days ago, I mentioned an English teacher from my high school years. I was in advanced classes at that time, and took AP Literature and Grammar in my senior year. If not for his tutelage, I wouldn’t have received the 5 on that AP test, either. And yes, I went to culinary school. Don’t ask what I was thinking.
In any case, Mr. Smith, that teacher, commanded his classroom and created a love for English in many of his students. It takes a special teacher to help students understand Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Fitzgerald, one with patience, wit and a little humor. Mr. Smith had all 3 in spades. I recall him waiting until our class settled down before trying to say a word, even if it was five minutes after the bell rang to begin class. He wouldn’t holler for attention, wouldn’t demand anything, but expected his students to act right and if that meant we didn’t get the lesson that day, and that we’d fail the test scheduled at the end of the week, then so be it.
Mr. Smith was an actor, also, and participated in many of the student productions and in shows across the area. I saw him in Fiddler on the Roof at a little dinner theatre during my junior year, though I recall having serious issues dealing with this sudden dichotomy of him as teacher and actor. I had, and still have, more respect for him than any other teachers I encountered, and hope he’s doing well, as I heard he retired a few years back.
An appreciation for language and an affinity for vocabulary have truly helped in my writing, and has made the editing process much easier for those involved. Though I began writing long before I met him, Mr. Smith (he’ll always be Mr. Smith to me) encouraged a love of classic literature and an appreciation of drama that carried me through those years and many thereafter.
To him, and to all the teachers who’ve lingered in the minds of their students long after the last day of school, thanks for all you do. It matters more than any of us think to mention in the moment.