Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Gallery of Teachers: Snapshots in Time

Mr. HayesWeekend Assignment #59: We've all had teachers who have made a difference in our lives. Tell us about one of yours. It can be a teacher from any level of education, from kindergarten to graduate school.

Extra Credit:
Tell us your second favorite subject in school.

There really wasn't a single teacher who turned my life around, or encouraged me when no one else would, or inspired me to become what I am today.  My memories of teachers are made up largely of incidents, snapshots in time, illuminated by moments of learning.  I remember Miss Pisano, who was the head of the Eagle Hill Junior High English department at the time, telling us about attempts to ban Huckleberry Finn and A Separate Peace from the school; and I remember that her vocabulary words always seemed to come "from a Latin root meaning..." (with the occasional Greek root thrown in).  I remember a nun in a religious ed class, giving me extraordinary advice about not hating people, advice I remember four decades later, although I forgot the nun's name a very long time ago.  I remember Thomas Murphy Hennigan's trick question in seventh grade social studies about the Iroquois and the corn plant. I remember from Home Ec that lettuce should be ______, not ______, into bite-size pieces.  I remember that Mr. Goldberg showed us the lyrics to Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, taught us songs by Chicago and the Moody Blues, and liked Cat Stevens better than Elton John.  I remember which songs we used in Miss Maitoza's English class to prove that "Some Rock is poetry."  And I remember that Ms. Hiestand had a Who's On First poster on her classroom wall, and that Karen Keane recommended that I read the "ABCs of science fiction: Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke."  Judith Gordon
But there was no one teacher who had a big impact on my life, based on a sustained effort or relationship rather than a single quirk or incident.  Still, I owe a lot to a whole slew of teachers.  And this isn't the first time I've said so.

I've already written in this journal about Mrs. Livingston (first grade--not entirely positively), Miss Olds (third grade--a great teacher), Miss Skinner (fourth grade, another great one, who later became a school librarian), and Ms. Gordon (high school English, a very good teacher, who cut me no slack).  On my sidebar here is a link to buy books written by my ninth grade social studies teacher, Mr. Farrell, who used to tell us to "polka in place."  And twice before, I've mentioned Mr. Hayes, the motorcycle-riding creative writing teacher, in whose class Dan Cheney started the book that Shane Johnson finished.  (I probably worked on the beginning of Heirs of Mâvarin in one of Mr. Hayes' classes.)  I've even posted a picture of Dr. Bogoev, a French teacher who made very little impression on me one way or another, along with Mr. Procopio, another French teacher who was a lot more fun. 

French teachers.  I had both of them atdifferent times.  Mr. Procopio was the fun one.

Okay, so who have I not written about yet?  How about college?  I can't say I remember Jean Howard, my Shakespeare professor in the 1970s, well enough to say much about her.  I'm pretty sure I once attended a party at her house, and if I remember correctly, I also had her for an English poetry course.  The class was discussing Ode on a Grecian Urn one day, and going around and around in discussing the terms carpe diem and fruit de temps.  I finally raised my hand, and cut to the heart of the matter with a direct quote from a beer commercial that was current at the time:  "In other words, 'You only go 'round once in life, so you've gotta grab for all the gusto you can!'"  The other students got mad and said no, that wasn't it!  But of course it was.  I remember that Dr. Howard was cool, and a good teacher, but that's the only anecdote that comes to mind.

Then there was Randall Brune,  the Sherlock Holmes fan I had for Romantic Poetry.  (He never did turn in my grade when I made up my incomplete for that class, but that's water under the bridge now.)  I can't say I was a big fan of the material, but I did like Coleridge and Blake.  I later sent him a pastiche of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, about Sherlock Holmes. 

Dr. Brune told a story at a Mycroft Holmes Society meeting about visiting the moors in England, where Hound of the Baskervilles takes place.  The landlady where he stayed warned him, "Don't go out on the moors at night!"

"Why?  Is there a gigantic hound, or some other dangerous beast out there?"
"No, nothing like that.  But don't go out on the moors at night!"
"Well, are the paths not well marked?"
"Yes, they are.  But don't go out on the moors at night!"

Unfortunately, I don't remember anything resembling a punchline to this story.

I think I need to skip ahead to University of Phoenix to do this assignment properly.  We'll pass lightly over the one instructor who made everyone's life miserable for five weeks, and the quirky business law instructor that I liked better than my classmates did.  (I will say, however, that I loved the Business Law textbook by Henry Cheeseman so much that I wondered how and whether to try to shift gears into some aspect of the legal profession.)

lousy picture, but it's the best I've got of Fred. That leaves Fred Lewis and Loren Yunk.

I had Fred for Financial Accounting I & II, Corporate Finance, and Advanced Financial Accounting.  He was laid back and encouraging, explained concepts effectively, and kept the class involved.  Even better, he had a tendency to hang out in the UoP lobby before class, where he was eminently approachable.  Even when I wasn't in one of his classes, I'd say hello, tell him where I was in the program, and get some off the cuff advice.  If I was in his class at the time, I could get extra help and encouragement and pointers. 

And oh, yeah, he's a handballhall-of-famer.  That's not strictly relevant here, but it does give me an excuse to post a link to a somewhat better picture of Fred than the horrible one on the left.

The last time  I saw Fred was at commencement in March.  He was the marshall for our little band of graduating accounting majors.  He agreed to  let me list him as a reference, offered to write a letter on my behalf, and advised us on CPA exam study tactics and on home refinancing.  I sat next to him at the graduation ceremony.  At one point I started crying.  I confided to Fred that I hadn't been this emotional at my own wedding.

"This is more of an accomplishment," Fred said.  "Any fool can get a marriage license. Not everybody can do this."

Thanks, Fred!

I had Loren Yunk, CPA, for Accounting For Decision Making, Accounting Information System I, and Contemporary Auditing I & II.  Loren was even more laid back then Fred, if that's possible, but just as good at explaining concepts.  He told amusing stories and showed videos, and his exams could have been written in collaboration with Garrison Keillor.  I would post a sample of his final exam hilarity, but that might help people to cheat on a future exam, so I won't.  Anyway, I learned a lot from him, too, so thanks, Loren!

Extra Credit:  Hmm.  Tough.  I'm not sure I can honestly say that English was my favorite subject in school, although I went out of my way to take four years' worth at F-M High School, and majored in English (two different specialties thereof) at Syracuse.  Yes, I loved the writing classes, the Shakespeare,  Ms. Gordon's comedy class, Ms. Hiestand's essay class, and probably other specific courses over the years.  Other classes I actively disliked, such as the American Realism one, which seemed to consists of unlikeable or weak characters having a miserable, bleak life before coming to a horrible end.  Yuck.  But if English is my favorite subject, is accounting my second favorite?  Should that be the other way around, with Accounting #1 and English #2?  Does Business Law (just two classes' worth) beat them both?  I'm so confused!


Nightmares and Mrs. Livingston
The Monkees and Miss Skinner
Ms. Gordon and My "Remarkable Facility"
A Gallery of French Teachers


ryanagi said...

Lettuce should be TORN not CUT into pieces. Cutting with a knife makes the edges go rusty. :-)  I am going to be lazy for this assignment, since I basically already did it not too long ago.

ondinemonet said...

Karen :)

This was really pleasant, to have a little insight into the teachers who touched your life. I love that you still have photos of some of them, I haven't seen any of mine in years. It makes me want to go and look them up! Great entry!

Always, Carly :)

vanlibris said...

I'm glad to see that someone else has "memories of teachers....made up largely of incidents." I never had the "one great mentor", either, but several teachers gave me snippets that I carry with me still. Surprised to find I poking around looking for L'Engle info, remembered your name from several years ago as a bonastra subscriber, and wound up here. Also, I was startled to find out you grew up around Manilus, NY....I just came back from a week there (husband on a business trip to Carrier Circle) and in fact used the library, probably not the same one where you read your first L'Engle book, but still. Weird coincidence, small world. Anyway, great journal...insight, funny, good read. I'll be back.