Who was your favorite teacher growing up, and why?
He taught 1 – 8th grade at the tiny school in my even tinier small town. (Queue little house on the prarie music). I thought he hung the moon.
Turns out he’s a right-wing nut. But he taught me to think for myself. And when he decided in 1969 that I might have the ‘seeds of a radical’ – I took it as a compliment
Mr. Marshall my high school history teacher. I learned from him that the best teachers are the funniest. He made everything so interesting that I became a history buff and a political junkie. He was also a hemophiliac liberal and an exceptionally nice man.
oh, this is hard. i will go with most memorable. the name escapes me, but she was big breasted 30 something black woman, who was an actress(saw her on local PBS once), and she had 5 vocabulary words a day or week. and she has the loveiest flowing handwriting. PENMANSHIP! oh, and once she took a plastic bat to a little misbehaving black kid.
My favorite teacher was Sr. Mary Carola, who taught me 7th grade in 1956-57. She noticed I was bored silly by math (we were doing arithmetical calculations and percentages) and so she handed me a 9th grade algebra textbook and told me to teach myself. I did. She set me on a righteous path to a career in science. Sadly, in her view, the religious instruction didn’t take. That’s why she was my favorite!
Six years ago I wrote apost about him. He taught about twenty of us French and Russian in high school. Several months later I got a note from him; he’d Googled himself, found his name in my post and wanted to say thanks.
Um, yeah, I was that maladjusted kid who had more friends on the faculty than in the classrooms, never mind the frackin’ hordes of mortal enemies on the bus.
My first grade teacher was awesome. Miss Oleman had retired from teaching on a Navajo reservation, and came back to teach first grade in our little one-horse town when it turned out we had so many kids starting that year it would break state law not to hire another teacher. They had to shuffle around all the room arrangments in the whole building to make us all fit. All the other teachers had these cool professionally-made name plaques for their doors, except Miss Oleman didn’t. So … I drew her one, and she put it up on the wall outside her door just like it was as good as those professional jobs.
Mrs. Kirk, my third grade teacher, was wonderful, and Mr. Kirk, my fourth grade teacher, helped me get over being phobic about math. Miss Laughlin, my fifth grade teacher, was the sweetest lady you could ever ask to meet. Mr. Buxton, in the sixth grade, would put things like “Right ON!” in the margins of my essays. He looked like a blond version of McCloud…
In junior high there was Ms. Gravitt, who taught reading (yeah. That’s what Texas calls 7th grade lit class. I’d done my first six years of school during an exile to the Ozarks, and spent the last nine weeks of my seventh grade year in a school that sent a letter home to my mother wanting to teach me to speak English … the attendant ballistics were, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty spectacular), and the principal from there remembered me, I guess, because when I graduated he sent me a present. But in high school … oh, in high school! Alex, the art teacher who was an Air Force vet; Coach Gravitt, who grew up to be the superintendent; Coach Bowman, who told me I could write on the edge of my paper for the one-page of notes we could bring to the comprehensive final, if I wanted to; several genuine snots — a math “teacher” and a shop “instructor” and a science/aviation “teacher” among them, who were also their own little cabal of nastiness; one got fired for getting caught with a Playboy magazine in his desk during his ‘off’ period, one got run out of town, and the third one — the one who flunked me in geometry — made my best friend (who was dyslexic) lick words off a chalkboard because she couldn’t spell them — but oh, the good ones were SO good. Coach Knox, and Mrs. Byers, and Mr. Fred, and Mrs. Curtis and Ms. Gravitt, the co-conspirators in my adventures at the State Capitol where they slipped letters under committee chairs’ doors after hours when our contests on the UT Austin campus were over — and Coach Robinson, and Shaw, and Ms. Ham the Home Ec Teacher from Hades, and Coach Wiginton with the curly hair and the grin like Clint Eastwood … and last but oh so very much not least, Coach Smith. Wow. Thanks, for making me remember.
…Mr. Girard, my high school biology teacher. Almost 40 years later, I can still hear (and occasionally have used) his comment about “taking a Wilkinson Sword” to slice through some bit of animal, vegetable, or mineral to see deep into the heart of the matter.
Even though he insisted on including the ‘w’ in his pronunciation of the word “sword”, his raw exuberance about the magic of biological science pointed me down a path that I am still traveling thirty-six years later…
Mr. Duynstee, my high school history teacher. Always had a “Question Authority” bumper sticker tacked above his door.
And then there was Sister Clara, RIP, who performed the miraculous feat of making higher math understandable without dumbing it down.
“Black” Jack McDougall, 9th grade English, Monroe JHS.
Insisted that language mattered.
Gave us grown-up things to read and insisted that we pay attention.
I am forever in his debt.
Mr. Mitchell, 7th-grade science, John Adams JHS
Took a busload of promising sixth-graders and showed us the unity of the sciences: every day to the lake to do something. A week of geology, a week of botany, a week with the microscopes, a week with the wildlife biologists, a week spent collecting and dissecting, a week spent tramping the outlet creek.
It’s hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with Richard Burkey, who taught ancient and medieval history, as well as sociology, in high school. He was the first teacher I had who demanded that we think for ourselves, arrive at our own conclusions, and–above all–question authority.
Ruth Thrun, my high school history teacher, Knowledge Bowl advisor, and one of my favorite people, period. She died about ten years ago, while still teaching, and her memorial service was held in the high school gym. It was full to overflowing. That alone will tell you a lot about her. I still wish on a regular basis that she had still been alive when I started teaching, both so I could credit her with setting me on that path, and so I could get advice.
I should also credit some of my amazing elementary school teachers–and I remember all of them. But I adored Mrs. Reppert from 1st grade, and Mrs. Osborn in third grade (she was a violinist with the local philharmonic, and I thought she was amazing. She’s why I chose violin, and why I was so sad when I sucked at it). Mr. Mannon in 4th grade let me do the reading units as fast as I wanted to do them, then let me read whatever I wanted when I was done.
the name ms. oldham surfaced, but i am not sure if that’s the right one.
I have three: #1 is James T. “Doc” Edwards taught high school shop. Doc was a philosopher at heart and put his philosophy to work in his teaching. He also taught me practical shop techniques that I have often used since then. He hated to be called Doc but was universally known by that name.
#2 is Otha Latch who taught 7th & 8th Grade English and taught me to use the English language.
#3 is Tommie Sue Smith who taught 9th Grade English and made us use what Mr. Latch had taught using practical situations.
Had to be Mr. Brewster, my seventh grade science teacher.
He wasn’t the smartest teacher I’ve ever had, nor the one who had the greatest impact on my intellectual development.
The credit for that last goes to the gimlet-eyed tough-minded bastards who oversaw my undergrad and graduate instruction. They taught me skepticism, the hard practical logic behind it, and intellectual self-discipline. Gods only know where I’d be without their hard gifts, but it wouldn’t be anywhere good.
But Mr. Brewster had the grace not to push me right then. My family was one ofthose families. The ones where abusive behavior, addiction, and madness are transferred from generation unto generation like some family curse. My father had left us a couple of years prior, on his solitary journey to a death from alcohol intoxication. My mother was cracking up. I was half insane most of the time. The single thing I most needed in the world right then was a safe space where I didn’t have to fearanybody.
Mr. Brewster gave me that.
It’s been almost 50 years now, and I still love him for it.
There are too many to list, but first has to br Mrs. Landers in 2nd grade, who had her father, famed herpetologist Ross Allen, bring venomous snakes into our class every month or so, and who brought in her old toasters, irons and other small appliances for us to dissect and figure out how they worked.
My 3rd grade teacher, Ruth Sherwin, was my first editor and publisher. Since I always got 100%s on my spelling tests, after the first few weeks of school she let me skip out on Friday’s spelling and vocabulary review/quizzes and spend that time writing. She also taught me that a piece of writing without a complication & resolution was an essay, not a story.
Kelly Reynolds coached soccer and tennis in addition to his duties teaching 6th-8th grade history and social studies; Mr. Reynolds would drink iced tea out of a tennis ball can all day long, and often as not would rest his wet teabags on your homework. He complemented our history instruction with screenings ofThe Guns of Navarone andThe Bridge Over the River Kwai, and even better: at the end of the year, if everyone got a C or better on his/her final exam, he would show us Pelé highlight reels during the last week of classes.
Finally, there was Bill Wood, whose Humanities class was better than the Art History and Shakespeare classes I took in college. As a gay man teaching in the most redneck of Florida schools, Mr. Wood had to deal with the ugly taunts of homophobic idiots, whose antics were tolerated (if not overtly endorsed) by the equally homophobic administration. The principal’s son knocked up the head cheerleader my senior year, and that was completely acceptable (boys will be boys, after all); but when Mr. Wood told the administration about his HIV diagnosis, he was stripped of teaching his beloved Humanities and relegated to proctoring study halls for the remainder of his career.
Thanks for giving us the space to remember these wonderful teachers, A.
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