Who Was Your Favorite Teacher?

Its easy to look back and select the worst teacher you’ve ever had. They usually stand out like an ugly mole in your memory. But your best teacher…well, that’s a little bit more of a challenge especially if you’ve had a few good ones. But allow me to tell you about two of mine for I believe they made such a huge impact in my life.

Let’s get my worst teacher out of the way right now. In addition to being my worst teacher, Mrs. Curley (no joke) of Hunt School in Weymouth, Massachusetts had two other distinctions. First, she had a mustache. Or at least her facial hair below her nose and above her upper lips was too dark for a woman. Second, she was my first teacher. But Mrs. Curley was just plain mean. I remember she yelled at me a number of times and made me cry. While homelife was already tense, she added tension. Shame on you, Mrs. Curley. I hope you found some live in your life and in your heart oneday. And I hope you mustache got some waxing or electrolisis for little problem or yours.

My favorite teacher is actually a tie: between Mr. Lauchlin, who taught English at my Catholic High School and Miss. Coyne, who I had a secret crush on and taught fourth grade. Each were very different and had profound effects on my personality and my way of thinking. Though they were much different each shared one characteristic. Both Miss. Coyne and Mr. Laughlin helped me to think better of myself. And that was something I desperately needed.

Miss Coyne was young and pretty and she sang to us and with us almost every day. She was the kind of teacher that you look forward to seeing each day. She always had a kind smile and an interesting story to tell us. She offered a respite from a rather shaky home life, freely selecting me as teacher’s pet and handing out frequent compliments and loads of tender loving care.

What’s most amazing to look back on is the fact that I know in my heart that she knew exactly what she was doing. I was cursed and blessed with being a very, sensitive kid, so she appealed to that part of me, making me feel wanted, significant, and comfortable. Aspiring or current teachers must take a lesson from this story, if they don’t know it already. Being 9 or 10 is a sometimes confusing, frightening experience. If you can provide a constant of security and warmth in the classroom, you’ve done a great favor.

As I said earlier, Miss Coyne sang to us frequently and was always teaching us funny and new songs. I remember singing all the time when I was in the fourth grade. That might be where I acquired my perfect pitch and tenor. Wrong! And I can still recite some of the songs that we sang; everything from holiday tunes like “Jack-O-lantern,” Jack-O-Lantern,” to more unique and interesting songs like “We Gotta Get Going, Where Are We Going, What Are We Gonna Do?” I loved that one!

One time Miss Coyne organized a class debate. I remember for the life or me what we were debating; most likely, “At what point does life begin” or “Evolution vs. Intelligent Design? Or perhaps it was whether or not Goofy was a dog or wolf? Regardless, we all got up and made our little presentations, complete with index cards and shaky hands. Mrs. Coyne did something that I’ll never forget. First, she gave me an A+ for my debate presentation. On our debate papers she wrote a reference to the Wizard Of Oz, that I’ll never forget; just two words. She wrote, “Another Lincoln.” I lived on that compliment for the longest time.

I loved Miss Coyne, but more importantly I think she truly loved her students. Her classes were as enjoyable as school could ever be and when I think back I still feel the warmth and kindness she exuded. I went back to see her one time many years later. If was fortunate to find her after school hours and she seemed legitimately happy to see me. Miss Coyne told me she was now a Mrs. which made my heart sink. But still we sat for a while and talked about the old days. And she was still as sweet I had remembered.

Mr. Lachlin was a different animal altogether. Tough, hip, a playboy who constantly complained of not getting enough sleep (which made our adolescent imaginations run wild), he was an English teacher who taught a little bit of English and then whatever else he pleased. Mr. Lachlin was a Libertarian with a specific agenda that he wanted to get across to us before we graduated. He made us read books like “The Greening Of America” and “The Fountainhead” and others that seemed way over our heads. I owe much of my love for reading to him.

I was in awe of the man and loved it when he told stories of his duties as producer of the daily TV talk show. But it didn’t stop there. Mr. Lachlin also did some Public Relations for the Boston Bruins hockey team (this was back when they were very good and he had prime season tickets behind the bench.) Finally, he was heavily involved in managing the political campaigns for a Massachusetts politician, Avi Nelson, and he actually recruited many of us to help out. (It’s no wonder why Mr. Lachlan never got any sleep.)

He was very strict in the classroom, demanding our attention and cringing when one of us would interrupt his lectures with noises of pens clicking or worse. I loved Mr. Lachlin’s classed because, unlike so many other teachers at my Catholic high school, he wasn’t just going through the motions and he definitely wasn’t phoning it in. He was dramatic and passionate and expected greatness in his students. I don’t think the Catholic Brothers and Sisters had any clue what Mr. Lachlan was teaching behind doors. If they did, I’m not sure he would have lasted a semester. But that was his greatness. he simply didn’t care what they knew or thought. He had great courage. He was his own man with his own agenda. And he lit my consciousness on fire!

So enough those were my experiences. I’m interested in who your favorite teachers were. Reply in the boxes below and tell me what their names where and why they were your favorites.

I’m dying to know.

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6 Comments

Filed under My Stories

6 responses to “Who Was Your Favorite Teacher?

  1. Jean Fox

    John,

    I love this! As a teacher, it reminds me that our students will remember some of what we teach them directly, but will keep in their hearts and self concepts the way we make them feel on a daily basis.

    I had many wonderful teachers, but, like you two stand out for me. too – Mrs. Underwood in fifth grade and Sr. Mary Ann Jansen in High School.

    Mrs. Underwood was the only teacher that I ever remember reading to us. I can remember laying my head on my bookbag at the end of the school day while she read us stories of adventure. I use some of the books she read in my classroom today and the students still love them. She was positive, encouraging and constantly smiled.

    Sr. Mary Ann Jansen was the teacher everyone loved in high school. She taught classes like Christain Morality and The New Testament. But, really what she taught us was that our opinion mattered. She listened and challenged us to support our ideas and “think outside the box”. She made us believe that we could, and should, change the world.

    Thanks for this opportunity, John! I really love reading your blog!

    Take Care,
    Cousin Jeannie

    • Jeannie –

      Wow. What a wonderful response. You write very well yourself. You should try a blog.

      I’ll bet that you’ve been a “favorite” to many, many of your students. You probably have a collection of apples at home from admiring students. I’m sure of it.

      Do me a favor and please say hello to your Dad and also to John and Liz, as well as to Russell and your own family. Does Russell still keep a website. I remember there was a Fox family web site up for a while. I’ll have to try and google it.

      Be well and keep inspiring those students,
      Cousin John

  2. Janet Graham

    I, too, had two favorite teachers. My first was Mrs. Potyk in fourth grade. She was a Polish immigrant and taught us all about the old country and even brought in Polish food and taught us to dance the krokoviak (not sure on spelling) and we held a May Day celebration where we all dressed in the traditional costumes. How this led to my career as a journalist, I have no idea.

    My other favorite teacher was Mr. Morrison in seventh grade. He was probably the one who led me into English and then journalism although I always loved reading way before he came into my life. Still, he had us reading, “The Catcher in the Rye,” “A Separate Peace” and “The Great Gatsby” and then we wrote essay after essay on the great writers. Like your English teacher, John, Mr. Morrison was brooding, dark and a good-looking single type. He was maybe not my first love but I definitely had a huge crush on him.

    • Thanks for your response, Janet. Isn’t it funny the things we remember. Mrs. Potyk was clearly very proud of her Polish heritage and the image of you dancing the krakowiak (http://www.usc.edu/dept/polish_music/dance/krakowiak.html) bring on some funny mental images.

      However…I think I’m a little jealous of brooding, dark Mr. Morrison. I never knew the lead singer of the Doors was also a school teacher. LOL.

      Thanks again for gettting in on the fun. Now who else will tell who their favorite teachers were?

  3. Colleen

    It’s hard for me to pick just one. Most of my teachers made lasting impressions on me, from the sweet, motherly nature of my kindergarten teacher to the sarcastic lines traded with my college professors. The most memorable?

    Mrs. Pierpont – what a tough broad. But she got through to all of us, even if it meant dumping a student’s desk in order to prove that when she said to clean your desk, you CLEANED YOUR DESK.

    Mrs. D’Allesandro & Mrs. Tweed – my Spanish teachers in HS. They instilled a fascination with the culture to the point that I jumped on the chance to go to Spain shortly after graduation.

    Mrs. Eastwick, Mrs. Reilly & Mr. VanHorn – my English teachers. They appreciated that I was a reader, and never hesitated to challenge my abilities in analysis and writing. I actually had Mr. VanHorn for two years, when he teamed up with Mrs. Schoettle to teach a senior honors English/history course.

    Mr. Breuer – good God. I may be a geek, but I was never a science geek. But damn if that man didn’t make biology a fun class. Plus, he was from the Bronx, which meant that when he asked for change for a single, I was the only kid who knew he wanted 4 quarters 🙂

    Professors David Bianculli, Mike Donovan & Dr. George Back – three TV guys who teach Television History I at the university, and who just sucked me into their world with their humor, sarcasm, and teaching methods. I went on to take additional classes with each of them, wish there were more classes with them, and hope I can stay in touch with them all after I graduate. They also managed to bolster my confidence in my writing and were a big reason why I chose my current major, instead of sticking with the English department.

    • Fantastic observations and memories Colleen. You really brought each of these teacher to life on the screen. Isn’t it funny how certain teachers recognize it when you have a certain skill or fascination with a particular area. And then, if they are really good, they hone in on that area with you and help bring it out even more.

      I loved your comments about your Spanish teachers who imbued in you a love for the culture and a strong desire to actually go to Spain to observe it firsthand.

      I hope that this blog entry and it’s responces inspire everyone to give a moment thanks for the wonderful teachers we’ve had, while reminding teachers who read this to understand their impact and really rise to the occasion each new day.

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