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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

SAYING GOODBYE TO A HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

BRYCE ON TEACHERS


- Thanks for the memories (and giving us some direction).

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Over 40 years ago, I graduated from a small public high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. The school always had an excellent reputation for academics and athletics. Interestingly, it continues to be nationally ranked as one of the finest high schools in the nation. Lately, I've noticed our teachers are beginning to pass away, which I guess is to be expected. Some we loved, some we despised. Nevertheless, they all left some sort of indelible impression on us, and I really do not think teachers realize the profound effect they have on their students. Let me give you a couple examples; last month my class lost two teachers, Edwin Napier and Rex Parker.

Edwin Napier was our American History teacher who recently passed away from complications resulting from Alzheimer's Disease. Mr. Napier was a small man who always wore a drab suit and tie to class. He would often deliver his lectures sitting on the edge of his desk at the front of the classroom. He was a quiet and reserved man which often made his oratories difficult to follow. It would be a rather slow monotone voice. Frankly, he reminded me of Ben Stein's character (the economics teacher) in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Like Stein's character, Napier had the ability to put students to sleep, thanks in large part to his voice. However, if you listened carefully to Napier you realized this was an intelligent man who loved history. I suspect he could have easily been a college professor had he been so inclined, but it wasn't to be.

I cannot speak for the other students, but Mr. Napier gave me an appreciation for American History. It wasn't just about memorizing the dates of important events, but why they occurred. For example, I can remember his discussions regarding the XYZ Affair, the Civil War, and the events leading up to the start of World Wars I and II. As you may know, some of my columns discuss American History, and I attribute my fascination with the subject to those discussions in Edwin Napier's class.

Rex Parker was our Geometry teacher who we recently lost to cancer. He was more gruff than Napier and possessed an interesting southern drawl, and would give you his lessons loud and clear in a no-nonsense matter-of-fact tone. His hair was brush-cut and he mostly wore a shirt and tie as opposed to a full suit. Beyond this, he had a soft and humorous way about him which the kids loved. I first knew him as my Freshman football coach and he did a good job of stringing our team together and winning quite a few games. He would bark orders from the sidelines, but we knew he cared for his kids. In my Sophomore year, I took his Geometry class. I was warned by my friends to be careful as they had heard his class was difficult. Remarkably, Geometry was the one branch of mathematics I grasped and excelled in. I learned the theorems, proofs and postulates. More importantly, it taught me how to construct a logical argument. This greatly influenced my technical writings later on and my professional career in information systems. It also affected my style of oratory, which tends to lean towards "logos."

When they passed last month, someone had said, "Does anyone remember Mr. Napier and Mr. Parker?" I, for one, readily did. However, did they remember me? Probably not. Although I had a good relationship with Rex Parker through football, after forty years and thousands of students, I doubt they would have remembered me. I just hope they understood what affect they had on their students.

Locally, I have a friend who is a chemistry teacher. She takes her job seriously and cracks the whip if the students fall behind. One day I reminded her, "If you somehow inspired only a small fraction of your students to motivate them scholastically or personally, then you have altered the course of history and made the world a better place. You are a 'George Bailey' (from the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life") - living proof that a single person can make a difference in the lives of others."

Not all teachers take their work as seriously as Mr. Napier, Mr. Parker, and my friend, but those that do can have a profound effect on their students, and the world. They are all George Baileys.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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