Friday, March 25, 2011

Old Teachers Who Made a Difference

No, this is not a political blog, but a remembrance of an old teacher of mine, Mr. Nelson (henceforth Mr N.) who I found out passed away after a long battle with cancer Wednesday night. I knew he had cancer for a long time, maybe ten years or so.

Now I had a lot of good teachers I remember for different reasons. Mr N. was was my sixth grade teacher. I think I was one of the first classes had had after joining the school. I was in his homeroom and he taught math and science primarily (we rotated to other teachers for different subjects at that age). He was the first teacher I had that wasn't visibly scared of me and my science knowledge. There was a good reason for it...he actually knew more science that I did (at least when I was in sixth grade!) In grade school, most teachers have minimal science background and it shows. Mr. N. knew his stuff and we finally got to do some cool experiments. I remember when he did the electrolysis of water. He said one test tube contained hydrogen and to expect a "pop" when he held the match beneath it and nothing happened. He looked puzzled and said the other tube contained oxygen so the match would burn furiously when exposed to the oxygen. He put the match under that test tube and there was a "pop". He had a goofy grin on his this day I still suspect he did that intentionally! Oh, he had an offbeat sense of humor as well.

There was no science fair in grade school when I went through. Mr N. changed that after I was there. My brother had him three years later and had to do a science fair project. Mr N. let him do a science fair project on home brewed beer. Try getting away with that one today!

The last time I saw him was in 2006 when I visited that small town in Iowa and saw him briefly. Mr N. you are remembered fondly by myself and I am sure many other students. Thanks for all you did.


Toad said...

Hale: It's really neat that you should remember a teacher as fondly as you do. My sixth grade teacher In Racine was my favorite, probably because she must have understood my inability to control my terrible behavior, and thus was able to control It. She lives about 50 miles away from me now, and I have contacted her to thank her for the help only she provided me. I have always wanted to see her again, but after 50 years, I am not certain I could bear the tears I may shed seeing the only teacher that actually cared enough to help me. It's pretty bad to remember only ONE teacher that impacted my life after all of those years In school.

jedwis said...

My life changing teacher occured my junior year of HS down in Chicago, Mr Sampson taugh anthropology and was also one of the teachers who went with the class to visit Washington DC. He was always laughing it seemed to the point were he would have tears rolling down his face. He talked me into studying anthro my first year in college. While I was away at school, he was killed by a drunk driver. I finished my anthro degree just for him.

RWWackoStu said...

Well written and very thoughtful. I think we all had a teacher or two who stood out and made a life changing difference in my life.

kkdither said...

It was my third grade teacher that was the kindest to me. I also remember my stern 1st grade teacher, she was excellent at her job, too. I was one of those quiet, good, students that were easily passed over. It was rare when a teacher took any extra time with me.

I occasionally get an email from former students. Some still write after 10 years to keep me updated on their lives. It is flattering, but almost sad when they say that I am the only one they remember. Every teacher should be memorable.

OrbsCorbs said...

I agree, nicely done, hale. And it's great that others remember positive teachers, too. I don't even remember who I had for 6th grade. I remember some of my high school teachers, but none of them fondly.

In college I met James Liddy, an Irish poet who was then artist in residence at UW-Parkside. Later, he would join the faculty at UWM and live in Milwaukee for decades. He died a couple of years ago:

I don't believe that everyone would describe Liddy's influence upon me as "positive," but he certainly was the teacher who had the most effect upon me. I visited him sporadically over the years, less and less often with time. I probably saw him last 2 or 3 years before his death.

Coincidentally, I'm going to a book release and poetry reading by Liddy's life partner, Jim Chapson, next week.

drewzepmeister said...

The teacher I remember the most was Miss M. It was her that got me to start reading classic novels and writing. She made English class fun.

Beejay said...

My Geometry teacher, Miss Chwelak (we didn't use 'MS' back then). She is long gone...a wonderful educator who cared about her kids and made learning fun.