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Best Teachers (con't.)

By Tom Kender

 

Looking through my dog-eared yearbook Mrs. Rowe always comes to mind. I find it interesting that our creamy white faculty and our creamy white student body was fortunate to have a dedicated teacher at a time when it was probably very difficult for a woman of color to find a position in an upscale high school. I mean this was the 60's. But never once in mind did I ever think of her as being black, I only thought of her as being so conscious of who we were, our confusion at a time of global responsibility and our difficulty in setting our compasses in the right direction. She set the course for me when I asked a question about the looming Vietnam War.

Although we were still a couple of years away from finding out what our future might bring and our responsibilities, I asked "what if I don't want to go to war, what if I want to move away to Canada". She responded by explaining the legal obligations of what was the edict at that time. Following the laws of the land. But then she explained we had a moral obligation as well. If we felt in our hearts that there were injustices in the world, then we should stand up and express those opinions. It scared me to think about the repercussions that might result. I'm guessing her comments were more directed to the race wars that were slowly brewing but it still gave me the help in deciding about my service to the country. Ironically, a couple of years later after college, I decided to serve in the Air Force. Not necessary in favor of the War but still be willing to stand up and express my opinion if injustices needed to be corrected.

On a lighter side, or maybe a more institutional perspective, my ability to cipher' is through the teachings of Charles Mumma. Ask me any math question and I'll solve it for you. Hell, I can even give you the correct Lotto numbers, it may not be on the same day that they pick them, but they will be the right numbers?? Mr. Mumma was a no-nonsense teacher who treated you like a good ole' yellow dog. When you did good, he praised you, when you screwed up he made sure you didn't make the same mistake again. To this day I love math, algebra, geometry, statistics, calculus anything to do with numbers. Maybe it is the one science where 2 plus 2 always equaled 4. You can always find the answer. Rest assured, I didn't later become a rocket scientist but I still get a little buzz when a math problem shows up in Marilyn Vos Savant's column in Parade magazine. And Sudoku....give me a break...I was doing Sudoku when Sudoku wasn't cool.

 

"Every grain of sand effects the tide"

If you ever had the chance to take Dorothy Herbst's English class, or maybe it was called Humanities or something like that...the above sentence still stands in your mind.
I had a sole purpose or maybe a soul purpose in enrolling in Ms. Herbst class. ..To go to New York City...but I'll leave that story for a later date because I really need to pay her a much-deserved due.
I had already wasted 3 years of idiocracy in my antics at Fairview....and yes, if I had to do it all over again, I would have certainly studied harder, became more involved in other activities like theater, or art......but then I guess I wouldn't be what I am today....and to some, who believe in me, that's not so bad.
But, I had a chance to maybe find my creativity with Dorothy and I blew it. She so much loved what she did. She lived in the moment and could look into one's eyes and see that beautiful sculpture that lay enclosed in a block of marble and I just let her down.
She knew better than to struggle with me while I stole her time from much more deserving students. She knew I had some kind of a gift, and she told me so.....but that layer of protection that surrounded me, those insecurities of fear of success that I misinterpreted as fear of failure, prevented me finding my passion until years later.
Today, as I visit art museums or take in a play or relish in musicals, I sometimes think what it would have been like if instead of trying to be cool I would have tried to explore a deeper, a more intense, an exposure of the soul type dedication to expressing emotion or feelings other than just getting by for another semester in order to just have fun.
Yes, Ms. Herbst, I waisted your time and my time back then but perhaps these little acts that I perform now in this blog as I strut and fret my hour upon the stage I can repay you for your devotion to bringing out the best in us.

And speaking of those who believed I had or have something to offer is Barbara Minton.
I remember her as fresh out of college wanting to teach and share her passion for the written word as she was thrown into a class occupied by my "Spagnola-type" behavior. A couple of years ago as I contemplated reaching for my quill and parchment that I had so long ago set aside in search for a more profitable career, she came across my earlier bloggings and we began to correspond as I asked for direction and criticism as I pursued my longing to be a writer. Through no fault of her own, I ran from our talks, scared once again of that fear of success of wanting that passion for telling my stories. Barbara, thanks for your help and I hope you can once again enjoy my musings as I try to bring a laugh and a smile to everyone's face.