Saturday, September 10, 2022

Thank You, 44 Years Later

I've been thinking about how much my teachers did for me during my senior year of high school.

Mrs. Jones, the reading teacher who I helped out all through high school, once told me that the quality she valued most in a person was humility. (Why do I so clearly remember her telling me that?) Well, with apologies to Mrs. Jones, I have to admit that I was academically the most gifted student in my class. Yet, in a way I was more work for my teachers in senior year than I had any right to be.

I'm sort of astonished at how accommodating they were! Mrs. Cheston was my calculus teacher, and when she realized that I could move more quickly through the curriculum than the rest of the class, she worked out an arrangement with the physics teacher, Mr. Solanki, whereby he would tutor me so that I could finish the whole textbook by the end of the year. Instead of reporting to Mrs. Cheston for first period, I went to Mr. Solanki's classroom (it was his free period, as luck would have it), and while he did whatever he did, I would work, under his supervision and with his occasional coaching, through every single problem in the calculus book. 

Because there was literally no one else to take French V that year, I had to switch electives. I decided to take Accounting I, which was pretty much unheard of for an academic-minded student like myself. Mr. Pish, the accounting teacher, was genuinely glad to have me in class. About halfway through the year, he put me on an accelerated pace, too, having me work all the way through the later chapters (essentially, Accounting II). He even gave me an extra set of workbooks/materials so that my mother, who had never gotten any formal training in this important area, could learn with me, both on our own.

When I wrote a crazy parody of Hamlet (a MAD magazine-style musicalization using the songs of West Side Story), Miss Morris (AP English teacher) took several days off the regularly scheduled curriculum to help me stage it. (Sadly it didn't go all that well, but I am grateful to her for trying!)

Mrs. Richards, my Social Studies teacher, did whatever it was she had to do to form an It's Academic Team. We hadn't had one for years at my school, but once I let her know that I would love to be on it, she made it happen. (We won our first game, too. She was a good coach.)

Miss Fedder, who had been my Social Studies teacher in 10th grade, was the Student Council advisor. When it evolved that there weren't enough classes for me to take in my final semester, senior year, she invented a class called "Student Council" in which I was the only enrollee, and which consisted of me hanging around in her classroom during her free period.

I may have learned the most from Mrs. Jones. Somehow she was the academic power center of our school, being in charge of both the National Honor Society and the Rotary International Student of the Month recognition program. I had a very tight relationship with Mrs. Jones (she once had me called out of class via an announcement on the PA system; when I went to her classroom, she asked me where her scissors were). So when it was getting to be the end of the year, and I had still not been named a Student of the Month, I decided to just broach the subject with her. I casually said to her one day in March or April, Mrs. Jones, when am I going to be Student of the Month. And she said, oh, haven't you already been Student of the Month? I was sure you were the first one. And I said, uh, no. And she said, oh then you'll be Student of the Month next month. And I was.

(The same technique, essentially, yielded me my first promotion at Marriott. You have to ask for things.)

Such a remarkably nurturing, caring group of teachers. I owe them much.

1 comment:

  1. I well remember that announcement! I feel very sorry for kids these days; I think a lot of the extras you -- and I -- received was very much due to the freethinking teachers (and a sufficiently flexible administration backing them) with energy, vision, and intellect. They didn't have to teach to tests or worry about medication schedules or triggers or armies of helicopter parents. They could just...teach.