That would be Mr. Simmons.
I mentioned him briefly in a previous post. Mr. Simmons was the teacher that my parents loved most. Why, you ask? Well let me tell you.
I did really well in school. Most of what we learned came easily to me. English, math, science….all of it. And because it was easy, I got lazy.
I knew I could pass the tests without doing the homework, and so I didn’t do the homework. And most teachers just let me get away with it.
Not Mr. Simmons. Mr. Simmons taught all of the advanced math classes at Corry Area High School. He’s retired now, but he taught me in Plane Geometry, Trigonometry, and in senior year, Advanced Math, which was a combination of Analytical Geometry, Pre-Calculus, basic statistics and several other disciplines. I also had him for “Math/Science Enrichment I” which was what they labeled basic computer programming (because for some reason they weren’t allowed to teach computers in high school under that label).**
It’s kind of embarrassing how easy math came to me. I did very well on the SATs and the Level II Math Achievement test (not 800, mind you, but very well). I always got A’s in math and rarely if ever studied. And I hated homework.
But Mr. Simmons wouldn’t let me get away with not doing homework. He pushed me to be my best, and refused to give me good grades for laziness. When I prepare for something that I could do without preparation, I think of Mr. Simmons. Because he knew what I was capable of and wouldn’t let me get away with skating by on natural talent. He wanted me to work at it. And he pushed me to do my best even if I could be lazy and “succeed”.
Mr. Simmons loved to teach, and he was the kind of teacher that would give you partial credit if you made a silly math error but showed your work and he could tell you knew how to do the math problem. But you had to show your work (something I also learned to do the hard way). My usual silly error was doing the old “1 x 1 = 2” in the middle of an involved solution. (“The old” implies lots of people do that but I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who did it with any regularity like I did.)
If you’re reading this, Mr. Simmons, please know that you’ve made a difference in my life. Thank you. I know I said all this that day I stopped in your driveway with my family a few years ago, but it bears saying again. Thank you.
To the rest of you: find those people who made a difference in your life and thank them. It will mean something to them, and everyone can always use the encouragement of knowing that we helped even one person.
** Historical Note: The computer programming class, aka Math Science Enrichment I, was taught using BASIC programming language on a network of TRS-80s. For most of the year we saved our projects on a cassette recorder (not a floppy disk). The final project, a pixel based graphics program (I did a 4 pixel plane bombing an embassy…yes I know I was weird then too), we got to save on the shared hard drive. The shared hard drive was 5 MEGABYTES. Here’s the closest picture I could find of the size of this hard drive that was smaller in storage than a PDA from 2001. This was 1985-86, folks, not ancient history. It always amazes me to think of what we did back then with the computing power smaller than my iPhone.