Thursday, July 28, 2005

Memorable Teachers

One's life is shaped by teachers, good and bad. I had some excellent teachers and some pretty poor teachers. There were also times when I was a bad student. Here's some memories:


1st grade: Mrs Snyder. She seemed really old, but was probably only a little older than I am now. She was like having a grandmother for a teacher. Kind, gentle, and skilled. She taught me how to read and write (Run Tip Run).

2nd grade: Mrs Buckner. She was a stern lady, but an excellent teacher. She lived only a couple of houses away from me, so I had her known most of my young life.

3rd grade: Mrs Fields. I barely remember her, but those memories are good. Don't even remember what we did in the 3rd grade.

4th grade: Mrs Black. She was the youngest teacher I had at Big Chimney, and kind of a fireball. Tough and fair. Probably the first time I ever thought my teacher was hot.

5th grade: Mrs Holland. Fifth grade was a little tough for me because I had not yet memorized my multiplication and division tables, something I was supposed to have done before finishing 4th grade. Mrs. Holland was patient but insistent. My folks did the flash cards with me, even through it was very frustrating for everyone. Then one day, something clicked and arithmetic became easy. I started school when I was only 5 years old, so I was the youngest in the class. I think my brain just didn't wire itself for math until later in the year. By the way, I was in Mrs Holland's class when the principal (Mr Pauley) came into the classroom and said President Kennedy had been shot.

6th grade: Mr. Spradling. This guy scared the hell out of everyone. Back in those days, corporal punishment was very much still allowed, and Mr Spradling had a fierce temper. I saw him slam Steve Pennington into a corrugated steel wall so hard the wall warped. I know I got whacked by him a time or two, but you know, I never felt it was undeserved or excessive. I also remember him as an excellent teacher.

Music: Mr Hamer: Kids were allowed to take instrumental music starting in the 5th grade. I went to the orientation session at the school, where the local musical instrument merchant set up displays of all kinds of band instruments. I really wanted to play saxophone, but the guy who later came to our house said the clarinet was a better instrument to start with. So my parents bought me a clarinet, and I was hooked. Music was one of the key activitiies of my youth. Anyway, Mr. Hamer was a patient and effective teacher. He became a good friend (more later).

7th Grade English: Mrs Parsons. She was a tough old bird who actually taught grammar. I hated memorizing conjugations of irregular verbs. Everything else was cool. I even liked diagramming sentences. We had the occasional 'literature' periods. A little was okay, but memorizing poems sucked. The grammar sunk in (it helped that my parents and grandparents used proper grammer too), even though it doesn't always show. I still have my 7th grade grammar book, right next to the computer.

Science: Mr Wright: I really liked Mr. Wright, mostly because I really liked science. In the 9th grade, he invited me and about ten other kids to take a special microbiology class. We grew stuff in petri dishes, did the stains, and looked at the bacteria through a new microscope he acquired for the class. He team-taught this class with another science teacher, Mr Robbins.

Band: Mr Hamer. I was now old enough to realize that Mr Hamer was a professional jazz trumpet player who taught school only to earn a steady income. We never had much of a marching band, but we had a blast practicing. Mr Hamer started a Stage Band one year, and asked me if I wanted to learn tenor sax and play in it. ABSOLUTELY. He would let me experiment with any instrument I wanted. I played Euphonium (treble clef) and Sousaphone (Eb) regularly, and occasionally even sat in on drums. Bob Hamer was a good man, tremendous teacher, great musician, and a wonderful friend.

Band: Bob Leighty: Have to start the high school list off with this guy. High school band was fun, demanding, rewarding and the center of my high school life (okay, second to a girl named Terry who I met in band). This was a high performance organization. We sounded good, looked good, and even won the top prize at the major band festival in our county when we were seniors. I was introduced to Ohio State by Mr Leighty through a trip we took to an OSU football game in 1970, and I knew I had to go to school there.

Biology: Mrs. Conner: Not much of a teacher, and I was a pain in her class. She gave me a D one 9 weeks because she said Terry was doing my work. It wasn't true. I rarely got anything but A's in science classes before or after.

Chemistry/Physics: "Doc" Chaffin: Doc was my homeroom teacher all three years of high school. I don't remember much of chemistry, but REALLY liked physics.I was well prepared for physics at Ohio State, and still use some of the stuff he taught me.

Geometry/Algebra II: Mrs Hammon: Hoover had a 'catch-up' math schedule for sophomores who wanted to take Calculus as seniors, but had not completed the advanced track in junior high. It meant taking double periods of math every day. She got the point across.

Trig: Coach Hamrick: Jim Hamrick was both the head football coach and the trig/calculus teacher. There was NO crap in his classroom, but it was out of respect rather than his insistence. We really wanted to have him for Calculus our senior year, but he got the job of principal at Clendenin Jr High.

P.E./Steve Kee: Just a good guy. PE was fun in high school (except when we had fitness tests).

English 10: Mrs Lepley: We were oil and water. I was a smartass, and she seemed to be after me. She gave me a D. Renee was a dear friend of Terry's mom, and we became friends after I grew up.

English 10/12: Mrs Koenig: A smart and very cute lady in a department filled with attractive ladies. Mrs Koenig came in the second half of the year after Mrs. Lepley started her maternity leave. I don't remember learning much, but remember having a lot of fun working on the school play when she was the director. Terry and I were even invited to her wedding (and we went!).

English 11: Miss Arthur: Because I had been such a bad boy in 10th grade English, and got a couple of D's, I was 'bumped down' a section, and was fortunate to have Mrs Arthur in the 11th grade. She was such a sweet lady that I got my act together and actually got good grades in English. I also got decent scores on the achievement tests, so my reward was that I was bumped back up to the top section and didn't get to have Miss Arthur for my senior year. But Mrs Koenig was a blast, and I got to have class with Terry again.

Physics: Charles Mate THIS is what college was all about. My first class ever in college was an 8am physics class. Dr Mate started his first lecture by pulling a bowling ball pendelum up to his nose while he stood in the corner, then letting it go. It was suspended two stories up, at the top of the main lecture hall in Smith Lab. The ball swung way out over the students, and came back within a millimeter of his nose. Then we started talking about the physics of motion, conservation of energy, etc. Every lecture was like that. Unfortunately, scheduling preventing me from having Dr Mate for the following quarter, and I ended up with a clown named Dr Karringa.

Naval Science/NROTC: LT Richard Smith. I attended OSU on a Naval ROTC scholarship, because it was the only way I could afford to get to Ohio State. But I loved the idea of being a naval officer as well. Mr Smith was an Annapolis grad, an A-4 pilot, and my freshman class instructor. Good teacher and a good mentor. Oddly enough, I met him again years later in Atlanta during a visit to a customer. He had resigned from the Navy soon after I resigned my scholarship, and decided to pursue a PhD. Honorable mention to Senior Chief Gunner's Mate (Guns) Thompson. He was the prototypical Chief Petty Officer, and a very effective leader. Told great sea stories. I remember him playing Spades every day with Andy, a one-armed deputy sheriff who had a neat trick of using a shoebox lid to hold his cards. Honorable mention to Major Williams, USMC. While I was never directly under his authority, he was a commanding positive presence in our NROTC unit. I've never lost my respect for Marine officers. Those guys have their shit together. His assistant was GySgt Bakta -- our very own DI. Special honorable mention to our CO, CAPT Mason. He was one of guys who interviewed me for my scholarship. We didn't have that much contact with him as midshipmen, but he seemed like a wise old grandpa to us. He was a destroyer squadron commander during WWII, and I think was one of those natural sailors and officers who deserved to be allowed to serve on a ship as long as he wanted. He was the real-life version of the character Rockwell Tory, played by John Wayne in 'In Harms Way.'

Linguistics: John Perkins: I met Dr Perkins during my second pass through Ohio State, when I was probably in my late 20s. Linguistics was facinating to me, and we ended up becoming friends, tossing down the occasional beer at Larry's after class (no, it is not a gay bar). I eventually hired John as a consultant to help us with a speech synthesis project at CompuServe.

Religion: Carl Skrade: I only had one professor worth mentioning at Capital - Carl Skrade. Capital is a Lutheran school, and as such requires all students to complete two courses in Religion. By this time, I was in my late 30s, the girls had arrived, and I was deep into my CompuServe career, so taking night and weekend classes was the only way I was going to finish my degree. Dr Skrade taught the Saturday morning, once/week Basic Religion class. As it turns out, I was at a period of searching in my life as well. Dr Skrade made us read and write more than I ever did for any other class. He debated with us in class (which was made up of other middle aged people like me), and challenged us to think in a way I had never been exposed to before. He changed my life.


mzieg said...

I wanted to thank you for your touching accolade to Dr. Carl Skrade. He left his mark on a great many lives, encouraging all his students to look a little more closely, question a little more deeply, and generally become more closely intertwined with the world around us. Words of his I'll never forget:

* interconnectedness
* look!
* numinous
* eschatological
* genuine
* story
* theopoetic
* nonduality

There is really no way to repay a teacher for such weighty gifts...all we can do is pass the wisdom on to a new generation as best we may.

Anonymous said...

I strongly agree with your tribute to Carl Skrade and with the other posting. Aside from the profound content of his teaching (the depth and clarity of his thought), the WAY that he taught--with genuine kindness, generosity, imagination, and shall we say grace and love--embodied the very ideas he was sharing. How he managed to be so utterly engaging and yet intellectually challenging remains something of a mystery to me, but as an academic professional and a psychotherapist I've always tried to live up to his example. His generosity (of mind, heart, spirit and soul) cannot be repaid, except insofar as each if his former students carry on his teaching and his work.
--I'm going to make this an anonymous posting, as I'm not trying to be noticed here; I just want to make a selfless contribution to your thoughtful remarks.