Thursday, April 17, 2008

Every Kid Should Have One of These

Today’s mail brought an invitation to attend Alumni Day at my old boarding school back on the East Coast. I won’t be able to attend – Happily, I’ll be on one of Amtrak's long-distance trains at that time – but it did bring back memories of a very important time in my life and, in particular, of a teacher who had a profound and lasting impact on me.

Joe Stookins was tall and courtly and quite formal in his demeanor. He was my French teacher. Joe spoke the language beautifully and conducted his classes almost entirely in French from Day One.

He took long trips to France every summer and came back with hundreds of color slides -- that was state-of-the-art in those days -- which he would show at regular meetings of the French Club. I was fascinated with Joe’s photos and with the glimpses they provided of such a different world. I’m quite sure that my love of travel came from those Sunday afternoon meetings.

Joe took a special interest in me, not because I got good grades in his classes, but because I had – and still have – a rather good accent. From time to time, to this very day, I still work on improving my French. So some 50 years later, long after he’s gone to his reward, Joe Stookins is still teaching. And I'm still grateful.

Imagine what would happen if somehow every kid in every school across America could have just one teacher like Joe Stookins. Why is that asking too much?

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