Monday, June 9, 2014
TWO MEMORABLE TEACHERS
Window to the World, Chicago, IL
I remember a late spring day like today in an upper floor high school class room long, long ago in a land far, far away at the center of these contiguous United States. I was absentmindedly staring out the open window at the shimmering tree leaves and was pondering my future. I had absolutely no idea where it might lead me. On reflection, I've attended a lot of classes in my lifetime and it seems that I only really remember two teachers with any clarity.
One of those teachers was my very first teacher, Miss Franzen, who was a very pretty young woman that I met at the tender age of four. She was a beginning teacher at Walnut Elementary School who ultimately dedicated her life to teaching. She actually might have been my first love, although that was very long ago and I'm pretty sure I didn't know what that was all about at the time. Interestingly, the only other teacher I remember with any clarity was Mr. Bloxom, my Senior year math instructor in high school who was nearing the end of his career. As it turns out, I seem to have retained good memories of my very first (and possibly youngest) and last (and possibly oldest) teachers in public education.
Mr. Bloxom's math class was located in that upper story Emporia High School class room. It was near the end of our senior year and I wasn't too interested in staying around much longer. Mr. Bloxom was waxing philosophic and musing about a talented athlete on our basketball team, the same high school team the legendary UNC Dean Smith had coached. Years later, I was getting the Tar Heel coach's autograph at his last book signing in Chapel Hill. When I mentioned that I was from Emporia, Kansas, he looked up and exclaimed that so was he! In fact, he was meeting a friend soon that just happened to be Mr. Bloxom's son. I remarked that I had his friend's father for a math class. Realizing that he was older than I, Coach Smith replied, "That's incredible. So did I"!
The one thing that stands out from my first elementary class and Miss Franzen was that she was always loving and caring. I don't have a clue what I may have learned that year as a four year old. I mostly remember that I was probably too immature to begin school. But Miss Franzen helped me to survive and begin my educational journey. Little did I realize then that it would be the journey of a lifetime and she helped me get a good start. When Miss Franzen called your first name, you knew that everything would be OK. It was no surprise to find an old newspaper clipping from the Emporia Gazette after a Google search of her name that featured Miss Franzen as "Miss Kindergarten", dated November, 1961, the year after I graduated from Emporia High School!
What I remember most about Mr. Bloxom's class is that I always seemed to have a good time and didn't realize that I was acquiring a lifetime's worth of useful logic and building a firm foundation for future engineering classes. As our final high school class was drawing to a close, Mr. Bloxom continued to discuss the young talented athlete that had caught his attention. He casually remarked that he was only a Sophomore. "Just think what he'll be next year", he said to no one in particular. So I volunteered, "A Junior!" That brought down the house and bought me a well deserved trip to the principal's office! As I recall, Mr. Bloxom didn't call me Larry, but Mr. Davis, which I liked.
And I had discovered the best answer and my calling---a starting degree in mathematics and a successful path to a full life.