I’ve had some good and interesting teachers in my years on this earth. In fourth grade Mrs. Podolak was a great teacher and I the class pet…the only time that ever happened. Funny how that correlation usually works. The place was Jackson School, Atlantic, Iowa, in 1974.
Here I came to have a fond affection for Mrs. Podolak, mother of Chiefs star Eddie. Every week during the season we talked about the big game. I was a huge Chiefs fan back in the day. Though I never had the opportunity to meet her famous son, Mrs. Podolak will always be one of my favorite teachers….kind, gentle, engaged, and approachable.
What’s more, I even remember calling her at home to discuss the Chiefs or a class project. In addition she didn’t hate left-handed people like my first grade teacher who always wore her hair in a bun and was meaner than Mike Ditka when his Bears were getting kicked by the Vikings. Thank you.
Our family moved across the state to Newton on the first Friday of October, 1978. I’ll never forget driving up over the last hill on I-80 around 9:00 p.m. and seeing the stadium lights from the football stadium for the very first time… wondering what the future held. Moving in eighth grade is tough.
Among other things I joined the band and the jazz band…I’ll never forget absolutely choking on an “If” trumpet solo in the Berg JH gym. I stood to play and there was no sound. This was the day 1st chair became a standing joke. I am thankful to Mr. Brostrom my Junior high band instructor for being more than just a teacher of notes and techniques.
Here was a man who took a genuine interest in the lives of his students…sitting me down and shooting straight with me even as I was beginning to veer off into trouble. Thank you sir, not for the trumpet lessons, but for the life lessons. I have since found out that he too is a follower of Jesus. Looking back now, I can see that this is what made the difference in his life. Thank you.
I have also had some excellent college and seminary teachers along the way, but for this posting I want to stop at the high school level. My favorite teacher of all, and the most difficult I ever had, was Mrs. Dorothy Spiker. She taught College Prep Reading and Writing along with some other high level classes.
I took everything I could from her and didn’t do well in any of her classes. There are gobs of Newton Alumns who are kindred spirits in this regard. Though the learning process was often painful I certainly learned a lot from her…things like that a lot is a place to park a car. Don’t use it. I also learned how to not split infinitives, along with a host of other tricks of the trade.
I’ll never forget the first pathetic paper I wrote for her. The title was “The Preservation of Trees.” Wish I still had it. In it I argued that we must all take more seriously the desperate plight of trees…even before it was popular. My campaign to save the trees ended the moment I saw the low C. My primary sources were several different volumes of World Book Encyclopedia.
I came to find out in a very painful manner that Mrs. Spiker did not like this series as an information source for college level papers. Never used them again…for anything.
Believe it or not these classes are why I love to write to this very day. It brings me great joy to express myself in words. Like the sage in Ecclesiastes 12:9says “The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.”
Were it not for Mrs. Spiker I do not think that I would love writing today. I now spend much of my life writing. For nearly a decade and a half I have manuscripted each and every sermon…the equivalent of a 16 page double spaced paper each and every week. And I love it! For me this is the essence of what teaching and learning is all about… helping people to find their passions and to do the very best with what they have been given.
Mrs. Spiker and I even went to the same church growing up but I assure you that I didn’t receive any special perks with this association. I never had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Spiker’s husband, who passed away years before I came to know her. He too, like me, was a pastor. No doubt he was also an intelligent man…with good grammar and a command of the English language.
Perhaps the reason she was so tough on me was that she knew that I too would one day be a pastor and would need to have at least some writing skills, of which I would have had none if she had not been so tough. Mrs. Spiker: the toughest, most demanding teacher I’ve ever known…but one of my favorites ever…Thank you.
Does anyone out there know these former teachers of mine? If so, what do you think?