Thank You Letter: My grade 12 history teacher

Appreciating an eccentric and passionate man

Credit: 
Journal File Photo

It’s hard to find a person who’s not had their life changed—at least somewhat—by one of their high school teachers. 

More often than not, a teacher will burst into a classroom with so much enthusiasm and wisdom they’ll leave a lasting impression on students, while making school a little more bearable.

But the teacher who changed my life was slightly less angelic.

One of the most narcissistic, stubborn, and difficult people I’ve met, my 12th grade History teacher remains the most frustrating educator I’ve had in my academic career. And to tell you the truth, I couldn’t admire the man any more if I tried.

[M]y 12th grade History teacher remains the most frustrating educator I’ve had in my academic career ... I couldn’t admire the man any more if I tried.

In a pinch, he was—bear with me here—the ultimate dude. A tall yet graceful man who often paired his slightly messy beard with 10-year-old sweater vests and Birkenstocks, you’d sooner expect him to teach you about Neil Young’s greatest hits than anything history-related.

Then again, appearances can be deceiving.

Like clockwork, he’d glide into our class every morning at 8:30 a.m. with a travel mug in one hand and a lunch bag in the other. After getting up to his wobbly makeshift lectern, he’d talk to students for a couple minutes—periodically scoffing at something somebody said—and then begin to teach. And every single day, he’d proceed to pour out his heart onto the blackboard.

It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Often ending with his triumphant grin and chalk dust littering the floor, his lectures were electrifying. Not only did they make the seemingly dull class material interesting, they woke me out of an academic slumber cast by my 10th grade French class. It was awesome, to say the least.

Don’t get me wrong, this euphoric enjoyment was counterbalanced by unfair grades, arbitrary changes to due dates, and the odd unsolicited personal criticism. But for those who genuinely enjoyed the class, like me, the benefits always seemed to outweigh the costs. As time goes on, they still have.

In spite of the fact that he often pushed my buttons, he undoubtedly remains one of the most talented and praiseworthy teachers I’ve had—and probably ever will. In taking that class, I not only gained a greater appreciation for the Arts and education in general, I also became more confident in who I am and what I believe in. 

Arguing with a teacher every day seems to have that effect on you. For that, I’m thankful.

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