I have been fortunate throughout my life to have encountered and learned from many excellent, inspirational Teachers, not only in school environments but in life! In my next post I will share about several of their key influences as mentors and I will invite you to celebrate your mentors too, but today I want to focus on just one of them: Mr. Oliver. It is the memory of his distinct inspiration (and a few others from early grade school on) that led me confidently in the direction of serving as a Teacher myself for now over 38 years.
Mr. Oliver was on the English Department faculty at my undergraduate college where I majored in English, in Buffalo, New York. He did not have a doctorate as most of the faculty there did; he had started teaching in a one room schoolhouse when he was 16 or 18 years old and taught from his growing experience from then on. Mr. Oliver specialized in Chaucer’s The Canturbury Tales, and I met him as a student in a class on that subject. Middle English rolled off Mr. Oliver’s tongue as a native language to him, and I marveled and delighted in his fluency with what remained essentially a beautiful but foreign language to me throughout the semester.
The story I am to tell (like the pilgrims of the Canturbury adventures) about Mr. Oliver relates to the time of his death. Yes, really! When I took my Chaucer class with Mr. Oliver, he was 69 years old. At that time (1973 or so), the university required faculty to retire at 70. As he had been teaching for over 50 years, all of his students felt badly for him that he would have to retire, at all. He was the consummate teacher who was ardent about his topic and centered his life around his teaching.
In the Spring of 1974, about two days before the end of what would have been Mr. Oliver’s final class, he died. Honestly, when we students talked about his passing we were happy for him! He did not have to leave his teaching life before retiring unto the Beyond! But this story relates to another one that he had shared with us during the Chaucer class. Once when he was in a hospital and needed an appendicitis operation, the anesthetic drugs wore off before the operation was finished. Mr. Oliver told us that for the remainder of his time on the operating table, which was at least another hour or more, he simply recounted the entire Prologue to the Canturbury Tales, in its entirety!
So, when Mr. Oliver passed, among us students we shared a passage that we had learned from him from that Prologue. To us it signified everything he meant and imparted to us:
And gladly wolde he lerne,
and gladly teche.
images are gratefully from pixabay.com
I welcome YOUR comments and Stories!