Like a lot of people, I’m lucky to be able to say that my parents were both positive and influential people in my life.  My dad….always honest, resourceful, not afraid to work hard, and able to do incredible things.   He built the big two-story house that I grew up in all by himself and still worked full time.  My mom was very creative, and encouraging. She made those incredible Halloween costumes for us, did a million things every day and still worked full time.  I had a grandma who lived close that was a great influence too.  But I’m thinking today about a couple of people I’ve barely thought of in a long time.

One is my Junior High school history and geography teacher, Mr. Gleeson.  I remember the first day of 7th grade like it was yesterday.  He had the class sit in a large circle.  He pulled out a bumper sticker that was popular in the day.   It read: “America: Love it or Leave it”.   He asked us what we thought of it, and pointed to me to start.  Holy cow…..not sitting in straight rows, and having to state an opinion!  That never happened in school before.

Well, always one to think on my feet, I gave a long and impassioned view that basically said people can either get behind all that was great with America or get the heck out.   Every student took their turn, and basically agreed with me.  Finally, Mr. Gleeson gave his view.  He said that America was formed so that people with different opinions would always have the right to be heard and to disagree.  That day really opened my eyes.

Another teacher I had, lasted only a short time, but made a big impression.   His name was Alex Sagady.  Not Mr. Sagady either.  Alex.  He rode a bike to work.  It was a 20 mile trip each way.   He taught 9th grade physics at Plainwell High School…. for about a week.   The first day of class was quite eventful.  The girl came around to collect his attendance sheet.  He took the blank form off his desk, wadded it up, and threw it at her.  Then he said we were going to do some lab work and learn about reflections.   He pulled out a box full of clay, small mirrors, strings and hatpins.   He said there you go.  Learn about reflections.

The class was in disarray (me included).  I said Mr. Sagady, I mean Alex, what do we do?  How do we start?   He just shrugged and said, these are mirrors, strings and pins.   They have reflections.  Figure it out.    Well, we sort of figured it out.  Some people seemed to have an easier time than others.  Well, the teacher we had starting the next week was a lot more traditional.  I was glad, sort of.

I’ll never forget these two teachers, because they were the first to come along and teach me that I’d need to learn to think for myself, and that independence and even non-conformity were great things. If I ran into either one today, I’m pretty sure we would not agree on much.  But that’s ok.