Saturday, March 26, 2011

Everyone Has One...

Everyone has one...a favorite teacher from their school days. For me it was Mr. Lynch! Charlie Lynch as he was called by his peers, was the most outstanding teacher I ever had. I absolutely loved this man when he was my teacher in ninth grade English. He taught us English Literature and writing. He was so inspiring.

He was kind of an odd looking fellow, we use to say he looked a bit like Ichabod Crane. Meaning absolutely no disrespect here, I just wanted you to know that I loved him because he was a fantastic teacher, the best teacher. It was not a girlhood crush on a handsome young teacher. Nothing of the sort. He was kind of an ageless man to me. He could have been 30, 40, 50?? What does a freshman in high school know of such things?

He worn the same three-piece black suit with a pocket watch on a chain every single day I was in high school...all four years, no exceptions. (Well maybe he had a brown sports coat or two. I think he did after talking to my friend Judi.) In my dimming memory I might be confusing Charlie Lynch with Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. If you squinted and stood at a distance, he could look a little like Gregory Peck. He had very ordinary features, thin dark and very straight hair, round spectacles and always looked just slightly disheveled. In spite of that, he was distinguished.

Looking back now I think he was the first intellectual man I had ever really known. He fascinated me with his depth of understanding and how he could make those dull old books just come alive. They would just jump off of those pictureless pages and right into my heart.

When we opened the likes of Great Expectations or my absolute favorite, Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native, we 14 year-olds didn't have a clue what to make of it. Chapter by chapter, sometimes line upon line, he led us through these heady, ancient, English novels probing our understanding, guiding our discussion until we could really see, understand and get inside them.

Remember I grew up in the Leave It To Beaver era (Happy Days Fluff.) This stuff he was teaching us just fascinated me beyond what I could explain. I was like a porous sponge soaking it up and relishing it. I wouldn't miss school for anything because I loved this class. In a way it was like my introduction to having a real passion in life for something I truly enjoyed.

Once we a had a pretty good understanding of the piece we were studying, he would ask us to write essays on various, very difficult questions. He would comment extensively through out the essays making points of interest, correcting spelling grammar or content when necessary. He was always chatting with you about your ideas and really giving praise for your thoughts, your style, your efforts. He was so encouraging to me about my writing.

I am having an epiphany right now that he may have been the first person in my life to praise me for something he felt I was doing well. My parents were very supportive and loving, but not encouraging me in this specific way, so much. It helped me to see I could actually do something worthwhile and had the potential to get better at it. I never thought I ever had had a mentor in my life, but now I am realizing that I have, it was Mr. Lynch. And because I respected him so much and he thought I was a good writer, it made me want to become one, if nothing else.

The most important thing that happened to me in high school academically was having him in the ninth grade and the real crowning experience was having him again as a senior. The curriculum was very similar and we read many of the same books but what a difference at the end of our high school careers because he had taught us how to think and find our own voice three years earlier.

He had taught me almost single-handedly how to read, comprehend and write, how to study and how to really learn and remember. He gave me my love of learning for learning sake, not for a grade. The only papers I still have from high school are the essays I wrote in his classes....marked in red from beginning to end with affirmations.

When our daughter, Jennifer, was a senior in the same high school 25 years later, I made a point of going back to see him. He remembered me right away and I took the opportunity to tell him how much he had influenced and shaped my education. He was very gracious and humble about it, and it was so good to see him again.

This month Mr. Lynch passed away. I just found out he was only 12 years older than me. I cannot even fathom it, even now he seemed so much older and wiser. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University! I would not have put any stock in that back in the day, again, what did I know? But in my heart of hearts I knew he was brilliant! Brown University and My Teacher. Wow! I feel so blessed to have had him touch my life.

Funny thing, this man of great intellect who had a love of literature and the arts, went to work for the Social Security Administration out of Brown. (Really?) He must have found it as dull as it sounds, because it wasn't long before he went back for his teaching credential. Whew! To think he might have missed his calling! So I feel doubly blessed!

We are going to go to his memorial service in April and I want to see if I can round up some friends from high school to go also. It would be only fitting to pay our last respects to such a fantastic scholar and really good man. Thank you, Mr. Lynch, for changing my world. The influence of a great teacher has a never-ending affect on his students. He didn't just pitch us a fish, he taught us how to fish. He is gone, but never forgotten....what a legacy to leave behind!


Marie said...

My teacher that had the most influence on me was a lady named Miss Ross. I was able to let her know in later years just how much she meant to me and that meant the world to me to be able to do so. Another great post Bonnie. xxoo

{Bellamere Cottage} said...

Hi Bonnie.... I have missed you.... :-)

What a fortunate girl you were. Mr. Lynch sounds like a wonderful man. The difference a greatl teacher can make is immeasurable, isn't it? I'm so happy to hear you were able to tell him the difference he had made in your life.

Sending you big huggies! And lovies!


Julie Harward said...

What a legacy indeed! I had a sweet 5th grade teacher, as she spoke she would dab the corners of her mouth with her hankie..;D

Caroline Craven said...

What an incredible story. To think someone like that would have ended up working locked away in an office somewhere instead of the job where he had such an influence on so many people. I probably didn't appreciate the many teachers I had, as I can hardly remember one who had a profound influence in my life. Kent did though. He was borderline dropout in high school when a teacher got him interested in a careers class. Long story short, he ended up learning to design and draw in her class, winning a design competition in the Provo parade of homes his senior year. She had such a profound and positive influence on his life, he chose architecture as his profession.

Sister Susie said...

It's amazing "What goes around, comes around!" When I got my teacher's degree, I went back and taught with my 3rd grade teacher. This has also happened to me this year. A kindergarten student I taught has now this year come and is teaching 1st grade.

A small world,