Writing

My High School English Teacher, The Lunatic Genius

  • May 13, 2013

It’s fair to say that my writing talents went unnoticed and almost completely unutilized until my senior year of high school. It was my senior year in which for whatever reason, my high school English teacher hand-selected me into the Honors English class along with a small handful of other carefully selected students.

My English teacher at the time was a prime example of an aging hippie, left over from the 1960’s who only stayed in college to avoid getting drafted into the Vietnam War. He told me that he became an English teacher simply out of necessity and that while in college, he experimented with drugs and alcohol because a professor befriended him and always awarded straight-A grades to his students to help them avoid military drafting, which at the time had gotten out of control during the height of the war.

He was a minimalist who only owned 4 changes of clothing, of which he would wash my hand whenever he was away from home. He encouraged me to write, and once told me in private that I was the only one he really wanted in his class, and that everyone else was there out of necessity.

I clearly recall one time going on what I thought would be just a simple leisurely jog around campus with my English teacher seemed like a welcome alternative to an all-afternoon athletic period turning into an all-out 7-mile run through mountain roads once used for logging, followed by a sprint up an abandoned ski hill. After I completed the nearly 9-mile run, I collapsed at the top of the hill and was shocked to learn that the 20 of us in the group were now going to play an ultimate Frisbee game for the duration of the afternoon.

When he wasn’t teaching, my teacher was outside making the most of the great outdoors, in his own very strange and misunderstood way. Because of his minimalist approach to life, and conservation of resources, whenever he needed to go anywhere, he would walk or run to the destination, while the remainder of us would travel by car or bus.

Although my high school English teacher led a very unusual lifestyle, his teachings were brilliant, and he would offer teaching and advice even outside the classroom. The brilliant lessons I was taught were without question some of the most crucial to my eventual career path as a writer, some 10 years after high school graduation.

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