This past friday, for the second time since I graduated high school, I went back to my old high school to speak to the seniors (and some juniors) about college. As I was talking to several of the classes, I found myself telling the seniors (and juniors) how fortunate they were to have so and so as their math teacher (for example) because their class was going to be very helpful when they begin to ease their ways into college a few months later.
Thinking about that, and running into one of my other favorite teachers from high school has had me thinking for the last several days about the teachers that made a difference to me… and my education!
We’ve all had those teachers that, for one reason or another, have made a significance difference to us. You know… the ones where you don’t dread going to class… and actually want to go! Fortunately, I had a good number of great teachers (and in general, i have had mostly good teachers). Some of the “great” ones that stand out exceptionally in my mind are: Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Malague, Mr. Villanueva, Mrs. Gerba, and Mrs. Downey.
From middle school, the only teacher that stands out explicitly is Mr. Shaprio – my eighth grade history teacher. Anytime someone can make a history class fun and interesting – they deserve A LOT of credit! I can’t believe how much I enjoyed his class… and still remember so much of it (the way he taught it).
It was also through Shaprio’s class that I realized I wanted to study constitutional law in my future. Until the eighth grade, I was completely set on being a teacher – I didn’t even fully consider any other option. For as long as I can remember, I would gather all my little cousins together every chance I got at family gatherings and “play school”. After getting a small glimpse about the constitution in general and constitutional law more specifically through Shapiro’s class – I was intrigued. I was immediately torn between being a teacher or a lawyer. Then, in the summer after my junior year of high school, I participated in a law program in Washington D.C. with many students from across the nation (and some from other parts of the world). It was then I gained a lot more confidence… and ultimately knew I wanted to be a lawyer in my future.
The other four teachers are from high school.
Mr. Malague – Mr. Malague was my Economics and History teacher in the eleventh grade. Mr. Malague always had a funny story and jokes to go along with EVERY part of the material he taught us, that made remembering the real academic information SO much easier to remember. I remember clearly looking forward to his class 11th period everyday my junior year… and each day, we would leave his class with a stomach ache from laughing so much… YET I learned so much! I remember parts of so many of his stories, and especially the ones we refused to believe that they were true no matter how persistent he was (one was about meeting one president or another on a train as a child or something… there were other parts of the stories that made it less believable that I can’t recall fully). Whether the stories were true or not didn’t matter… his teaching style worked and he made class a lot of fun at the same time.
Mr. Villanueva – I had Mr. Villaneuva two years in a row (British Literature in the 11th grade and Public Speaking in the 12th grade)… and Mr. V was definitely the most unconventional teacher I have ever had (literally).
Every teacher of english gives some sort of an introduction to the novel we will read next… just not in the same way. I remember clearly one day when I was not feeling well at all, and was hoping it would just be a relatively “normal” and quiet day throughout. I was so out of it that I didn’t even notice class had started several minutes ago, and that Mr. V was just sitting at his desk, looking down, jotting down stuff (until people pointed it out)… which was so out of his character. He always greeted us coming into class and whatnot. For that whole class period that day, Mr. V did not speak a word, or even look at any of us. Most of the class began to “break the rules” and do stuff they normally would not because they saw Mr. V was not reacting to anything we said or did. Little did we know, he was writing down everything he could hear of what we were saying.
The point was that we were about to start reading “Lord of the Flies” which is a book about some kids whose plane gets shot down and are alone on some island and it basically shows the destruction of mankind without rules and order. Mr. V – by not acting as the teacher, demonstrated the importantance of rules and order by that exercise.
Another memory from the time we were reading the same book – class had started several minutes ago, and Mr. V wasn’t even in class yet. Then out of nowhere, several of my classmates and Mr. V came running in disastrously and began destroying some of the things in the room (like his desk). Was I surprised? No. Anything was possible in this class. But that’s what made it so great – I would never have remembered what I read so many years ago, but I remember all the books so well because of the way we learned them.
There are so many stories I remember so well from his class, I could go on forever. I’m also VERY glad I took Public Speaking my senior year. If I had known when I signed up for it that he was teaching it, I’m not sure I would have taken it… or at least been even more hesitant than I was already because I would have expected to have to do crazy stuff that I would not want to do. But that’s life, isn’t it? We often have to face things and do what we don’t want to do. Public speaking helped me tremendously (even though I still despise talking in front of large groups of people at times).
Mrs. Gerba – I had Mrs. Gerba for Psychology my senior year of high school…and I learned SO much from her class that has helped me in many of my Psychology classes in college. Mrs. Gerba was always willing to help and so incredibly nice, and her teaching style was great. Her projects and assignments were always fun, so it didn’t seem tedious or boring at all! What I liked most about her was that when someone would ask her a question that she didn’t know the answer to… she always would find the answer and get back to us! Something so little, but so meaningful! So many times teachers let their pride get in the way and get offended for some reason when they are asked something they don’t know the answer to.. and I’m so glad Gerba always went out of her way to help us!
My favorite assignment from her class was the final case study we had to do… what an eye opener!
Mrs. Downey – Aside from the fact that she is one of the most genuinely nice people you’ll ever meet, I had Downey for math my senior year… and she was definitely the first math teacher I EVER had throughout the twelve years of schooling that made math fun. Her teaching style was simple, yet so different from others… and it made sense! She also had a great sense of humor, so class was always fun.
It’s the little things that I remember… that made such a big difference. It’s not like they changed the world… but had a great impact on me (and many others I’m sure).
I keep in touch with a few of the above-mentioned teachers, but I hope I get in touch with the others… because it would be really nice to say thanks. From what I can remember when we were back in school, high school students are definitely not the most appreciative bunch of students… but it’s amazing to think how much of an impact teachers have (good or bad) on hundreds of students each year.
We definitely don’t appreciate our teachers enough, and I wish more people took out some time to express their gratitudes… and I certainly wish i did. It’s amazing that I had these teachers four, five, and in one case over eight years ago… and I can still remember their class so well.