No Ordinary Teacher


Scott and I went to college together, and we recently had the chance to reunite. When he heard about my project, he immediately thought of Mr. Arnold. I could hardly wait to share Scott’s story of his extraordinary teacher.

I clearly remember the day I met Mr. Arnold in 1985. I was a junior in high school, much more interested in sports than academics. He walked into the classroom, fresh out of college. He was wearing a Florida State golf shirt, slacks and carrying a black briefcase.  My friends and I thought, Well this is going to be fun; we will steamroll right over him. But we soon realized that Mr. Arnold was not like the other teachers.

He was intensely passionate about his subject. The principal would not let him show Excalibur during a unit on King Arthur’s Court. So, he invited us to a viewing party at his house. When we got there, his wife had snacks and showed us their home. There was a table in the middle of the room with complete reenactments of World War II battles, laid out in graphic detail. Along the walls were Star Wars figures, toys, and other Sci-Fi paraphernalia. In another room, drawings of cartoon monsters covered the walls. Apparently, he was a teacher by day and an illustrator of comic books by night.

When Mr. Arnold read aloud, it was an experience. He became quite animated and occasionally dressed the part. He captured my imagination. He sparked my creativity and inspired my love of science-fiction. This ordinary looking man was actually quite extraordinary.

I was fortunate to be in Mr. Arnold’s class, and even more fortunate to be the parent of one of his students. My oldest daughter had him for the same class I did. After high school, she earned a degree in creative writing and is now pursuing her MFA in fiction writing. I know Mr. Arnold had an incredible influence on her love for literature, just as he did for me years ago.

Scott’s story caused me to reflect on the importance of passion. Memorable teachers are not necessarily the most charismatic. They look like ordinary folks on the outside. It is the passion they carry on the inside that enables them to make an extraordinary impact on their students. Was there a teacher who delighted and inspired you?

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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