We've all had one. That special person who inspired you, made you think, made you laugh, made you feel like you weren't just a number in the crowd of kids that paraded through their classrooms year after year. Every person I know - and usually every writer I've met - has a favourite teacher. We know that we'll always remember them because if they were good, if they were doing their job ... no, sorry - if they were doing MORE than just their job, if they were teaching because it was a passion then they made an impact on our lives. I know I had a few great teachers over the years but in high school (the time period I like to write about and that is always most vivid to me) I had one particular teacher who I will never forget: Mr. Nespolon.
He was, of course, my English teacher. But he was so much more than that. He was a teacher in the highest sense of the word. He inspired me to do better, to think deeply about what I was reading or writing. He was the first one to suggest I might be a good writer by asking if I was going to submit for publication a short story I'd written. I thought he was just being nice because he was always so encouraging to everyone but maybe even back then he saw something in me I didn't see in myself. Yet. He was funny, he was impatient, he was nuts sometimes, he was always available to us (I sometimes wondered if he had a life outside of the school he was there so much). He prepared us all for the rigors of university because he expected a higher level of thinking from his class. We became more critical, more astute thinkers. We were only teenagers but he helped us grow up a little with the discussions we had over the classics (or even just talking about the Rocky Horror Picture Show).
He gave of himself through countless hours spent directing school plays and musicals. He demanded a lot of his actors (including me) sometimes bringing me to the point of tears but he got me to perform better. Doing his musical finally gave me the courage to break out of my shell. I was never so terrified but it was the best thing I'd ever done and Mr. Nespolon guided me through it.
Years later, when I went back to visit my school, to my surprise he still remembered me. He still does. My mom called me today to tell me that he was visting a former student of his, now a teacher herself, and the daughter of my mom's good friend. She told him about my book, showed it to him and he was so happy she said, so pleased for me. He told her he still remembered me and said what a good kid I'd been back then. He took the book away to read. I hope you like it, Mr. Nespolon.
I know I'm only one of countless kids my favourite teacher inspired. I know he's created at least 3 teachers out of our class and countless more from other years. I know he definitely had a hand in creating one writer. So, Mr. Nespolon, if I don't get a chance to tell you this in person please know that if it weren't for you I don't think I would have had the guts to start writing. It took me a while but I finally published something. And please know that everything you ever taught me about literature, language and the gift of writing I will carry with me forever. Thank you.