Let’s see, there was Mr. Kelly who treated me not so much as a student but as a person. There was Miss Voxland, who as a kindergarten teacher, cared enough to have me sit on her lap. There was Miss Barslow who introduced me to books.
All of us have one or two or more teachers that took an interest in us, and because of that interest, we give them the label “favorite teacher.” In their own special way they influenced us to be a better person. I was lucky to have more than one of these people as a teacher.
The school year will begin before long. Yes, it’s hard to believe, and as teachers begin to psych themselves up, they will be thinking once again about what it means to be a good teacher. They will think about the good teachers they have had and what they did to cause a student to still think about them years and years after they left the classroom.
As you think about your teachers, I want to mention one that comes to mind for me. His name is Dr. Thomas Evaul. He was my graduate assistant advisor at Temple University in Philadelphia. Temple was known for its outstanding physical education faculty and I was happy to be part of it if only for one year.
This would be my first year to experience graduate education and I really didn’t know what to expect. I was happy to be under the guidance of Dr. Evaul. He deftly led me through the paces.
It was about five years ago that I last spoke with him and it had been about 50 years prior to that when I left Temple to teach in Iran. I had found his email address so I sent him an email prior to my call. When I called him he said something like, “Oh, yeah, you were the quiet one who wrote the books.” We didn’t talk for too long but I did thank him after all of these years for being my mentor and for helping me.
In preparation for this column I looked him up again and found that he had passed away this year at the age of 89. I was truly sad. He was a good person and a good teacher who exemplified many of the qualities we look for in teachers.
He was a patient man. I can recall several times when I was struggling with my thesis when he came to my office and sat down and just had a heart-to-heart talk with me and went over again what I needed to do. He genuinely took a personal interest in me and wanted me to do well.
Probably the most important thing teachers can do is to take a personal interest in their students. I ran into Dr. Gordy Lindgren at a local supermarket recently and like most teachers, we began to talk about teaching. (Gordy and his wife, Alice, are former distinguished professors at BSU in the science department. Maybe some of you were lucky to have them as your teacher.) He mentioned that some of his best moments as a teacher occurred when students would come to his office and just visit. And, as a teacher, of course, you had to find time because good teaches remember that students always come first
Tom Evaul was this kind of professor. He took time for you. Still, he maintained very high standards and realized that what his students did or did not do was a reflection of his teaching.
It was his tradition to invite his master’s candidates over to his home at the conclusion of their degree. He knew that Kathy and I were off to Iran so he also invited a friend who had been to Iran to show us some of his slides. As I recall, Dr. Evaul fell asleep during the slide show.
He loved teaching and he loved teaching about physical education and health. For my thesis he persuaded me to do a library research of all the concepts of human movement and how they might be applied to a physical education program. No doubt this would be boring to 99 percent of the population but Dr. Evaul and I ate it up like a choice piece of cheesecake. You see, he made curriculum come to life for me. This is what good teachers do. They make learning come alive.
I doubt if I was one of Dr. Evaul’s better scholars but I hope I made up for it by what I did in the classroom after I left Temple. I hope he’d give me a thumbs up from that classroom in the heavens.
Dr. Evaul had patience, took a personal interest in you, wouldn’t deviate from his high standards and went the extra mile to ensure that you found success. One thing for sure, I will never forget his guidance and nurturing. He was a professor’s professor. He was and will always remain one of my favorite teachers.
Riddle: You walk across a bridge and you see a boat full of people, yet there isn’t a single person on board. How is that possible? (All the people on the boat are married.) Did you ever wonder why teachers often marry other teachers? Good teachers always leave you wondering about something.
100 percent graduation
A local movement is underway to ensure the area has a 100 percent high school graduation rate. Thanks to Bemidji Bowl for becoming the most recent business to support the goal.
You can help kids graduate when you:
Go bowling as a family.
Teach your kids to take interest in some sporting activity.
Tell them about your favorite teacher(s).
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.