Teacher Recognition

Wow…I really owe y’all some posts that are in draft.  I’ll put Chicago on notice that this Hedgehog has stuff to do and get back to my words.

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Day and I wanted to take a moment to point out the work of a teacher who made an impression on me. There were many, this was just one.

Mr. Oliver was a relatively new teacher when I had him as a senior. If I’m thinking correctly, he was then the age I am now. I’d worked with him for Speech competitions* and he’d given me a topic for my utterly ridiculous why-yes-I-wrote-this-on-the-way-to-competition speech for Academic Decathlon.**

It wasn’t until my final semester of high school though that I sat in his classroom formally. And even with block scheduling I had him every single morning of that final semester.  Our schedules were divided by school colors so on Blue Days I had Speech and Gold Days I had W131, a college level writing course that he’d had to get extra certification to teach.

By the time I landed in those desks I was done with high school. I was headed to New York for college and wasn’t particularly focused on anything but getting through and getting out. Certainly I was still prepping for my AP Calculus exam (we’ll discuss Mr. English another time), but I was through my last Madrigal Dinner, my credits were solid and if it weren’t for jovial but still serious competition with Andy for the 5th ranking spot in our class and teachers like Mr. Oliver, I might have completely zoned out.

Speech was the first and only time I was in what was described as a regular English class, having been fast-tracked in gifted programs from the time I went into public school in sixth grade. Public speaking ability, good note taking skills, and a decent memory for details meant that everyone wanted me on their team for Review Jeopardy–because we would win and get candy. It was an entirely different group of students than I was used to–my cohort having been pretty small and very tracked. I wasn’t allowed to slack though, being known to be competent by the teacher eliminates that.

On alternate mornings I was surrounded by my cohort–and the level of expectations was doubled, if not higher. We were doing college level work and Mr. Oliver did not make it easy. He did, however, spend a ridiculous amount of time mentoring us. We only wrote five papers that semester but it was not easy. He came in early, stayed late, read drafts, gave comments, took emails from students in the early days of “are students allowed to email teachers?” and was incredibly supportive. He wanted us to write well and to succeed. We knew that and as a result put in more effort. At least, I did, and from what I remember of my classmates, most of them stepped up too. It meant that all of us owned and had memorized the very-newly-on-DVD Ever After when we were writing on various Cinderella tales. And while I have no memory of what my final paper was on, I do remember suffering through multiple drafts of it and coming out a better writer on the other side.

Mr. Oliver was one of the senior class sponsors, which meant he spent time with us after school and outside of class on Class of ’99 details. My favorite memory of him was at a faculty/student basketball game. My class had decided to get BRIGHT yellow t-shirts as our class shirts (seriously–dayglo yellow. Having a class of seniors on t-shirt days was painful.) and we were out in full force. Mr. Oliver pulled one of the t-shirts on over his teacher clothes and I realized a few seconds later I’d lost him in a sea of students.  We’d recently been discussing how he was really in the same generation as all of us–something strange for us to wrap our heads around, even as we all called him by his first name behind his back.

Thanks for putting up with us Mr. Oliver. I appreciated it.

*I did poetry mostly. Can’t remember what on earth I was reciting but I did a couple of competitions.

**Doesn’t Global Warming Sound Good?  I advocated for the return of giant fauna and flora, the end to snow shovels, and other such ridiculous things.