Friday, March 16, 2012

Living in 1993 This Week

I had this great, angry post all prepared in my head this morning about birth control, but I've gotten all dressed up in my red and black and my furor has ebbed.

I think that is probably a sentence that requires some explanation. Through the 80's and early 90's, there was a principal in the community in which I grew up that became the center of life at our high school. As it was a fairly small community--smaller than than it is now--the high school was the center of the community. Needless to say, that this remarkable man and his lovely wife were, by extension, a very important part of my high school years and our little hamlet. In a small town, people end up infiltrating your lives in unexpected ways. The wife was my parents' loan officer. And though she must have been the same for hundreds of people she never forget to say hello and remember everyone's name. Her husband was our principal, but he also was the man who taught my older brother much of his love for the outdoors, and maybe even took him ice fishing a time or two. Even years later, before his health declined so terribly, when I would go home to visit, I would see him at community functions--a parade, a wrestling match, a fair. He always said hello. He always remembered names.

A couple of favorite memories. One more personal, the other less so:

His first love was biology; he had the degrees to show it also. He would sometimes show up in my AP Biology class and after he sat and listened for a while, he would just start booming out questions from the back of the room. We never knew enough to keep up with him. A couple of times he even took over our teacher's lectures (it was all done in a very friendly spirit) and he was remarkable. He would take a glance at where we were at in the textbook and just start talking . . . never missing a beat. We loved and respected him. We wanted so badly to please him. There was a personal congratulation when I passed that AP test with flying colors. It became one of the first important markers in a rather stacked high school resume. When I was a senior, he gladly wrote a letter of recommendation as I advanced in a very competitive scholarship offering. I knew, without a doubt, that he had my back.

At every assembly or pep rally he would stand up and talk. You could hear a pin drop for the respect nearly every kid gave his booming voice and bulky presence. There were 1000 of us. He would talk about what it meant to be a Warrior. He talked about pride and respect and achievement. No honor or achievement or win was too small to celebrate. He created a culture of celebration in each others' accomplishments. At the end of each speech the tension and power in his voice would build and then he would say, "I just have one question for you . . . ." there would be a long pause and the potential energy around you would crackle in the air as we waited . . . waited . . . for the question we were exploding to answer. "How does it feel to be a warrior???!!!" And we would go crazy loco.  Because, after he spoke, there was no question about how good it felt.

So much past tense today is not just about the fact that so much of this happened long ago. It is because this wonderful, caring man passed away this week after many years of health struggles. He may not have been known outside our small community, but he held a generation of kids together. He was an educator first and foremost--a man of modest means and simple tastes--but the real wealth he spread will have effects for generations yet to come. He is on a short list of people who inspired me to become a teacher. It is one inspiration out of hundreds and hundreds. What did we become because we knew this man? Volumes could be written.

I hardly ever wear red and black together; they were my high school colors and after wearing hardly anything else several days a week from 91-93, it is still "too high school" for my taste. But today I'm decked out. I left the letter sweater in the box, though I think if I was still in my hometown today I would have had to wear it. And it must be admitted, I still bleed red and black. Because, Mr. H., it still feels pretty darn good to be a Warrior.


emandtrev said...

What a great tribute. He sounds like a wonderful person.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Very moving post. It got me thinking about my own high school experience. The administrators loved to tell us we were the "best" high school, but I think it was because they wanted to administer the best school, not because we had done anything to earn it or because they respected us as students. I certainly never felt like they loved us.

By contrast, I had an economics teacher at that school who genuinely respected and liked his students. He expected a lot of us because he believed we were up to the challenge and it would have been a disservice to go easy on us. I hated economics, but I loved that teacher.

Cathy said...

Oh boy. I wish I went to your high school.

Instead, my senior year was dominated by the fact that our principal had been given a choice by the school board to accept demotion to an elementary school or be fired. Their stated reason? He hadn't followed correct protocol in firing the band teacher, who had some probable issues with financial misconduct and inappropriate actions with a student. The probable reason? The community had elected an 18 year old to the school board the previous year, who ran on the premise that she understood what students needed, having recently been one. Said 18 year old was living with a former teacher who had been fired for allegations of sexual misconduct...and I knew the student who accused him and what she went through! After the issue with the principal, the community worked to recall the school board...ugly polarization occurred in the community, including tires being slashed...and my favorite teacher nearly quit teaching because the politics were so awful that it was making life unbearable. I envy you your experience.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Oh. Wow.

It sounds like a trashy novel.

Shiree said...

I didn't know him but I knew he was very respected and loved by my Weber friends. What a great tribute.

But, when is the angry birth control post coming. :) I was pretty fired up the last few weeks about the sex ed bill that was passed in Utah. Thankfully, it was vetoed. Good grief.

Cathy said...

As I was writing my response, I thought how in between the disclosures about personal background that I'd made recently and the high school experiences just shared, perhaps I was starting to sound too sensational to be credible. But it's all true...just goes to prove the adage about truth being stranger than fiction.

It also got me thinking about the public school system, of which generally I'm a strong supporter. However, the school attended does have influence, as just demonstrated. And sometimes that influence is negative...

I'm not sure I would have taken full advantage of your outstanding school. High school was the period of time in which I came to terms with all of the difficult experiences of my childhood, and academics weren't too important at the time. I did have several excellent teachers but overall my relationships with adults in the ward I was in were much more significant in my healing. I think I was blessed to be in an area that, while I did have a soap opera occurring at school, at church and seminary I had a solidly supportive bishop and caring leaders and seminary teachers.