First semester, African-American history class, white instructor.
For a New Yorker who kind of recently relocated to the south; I was in the Twilight Zone. Mr. C’s eyes pierced through my bewilderment and he had a proper southern accent. It was the cherry on top of my Bible Belt sundae.
I learned more African-American history from him than I did from the first black professor of African-American studies I had back in NY! It amazed me. It also disturbed me until I embraced the phenomenon.
My head spun from the knowledge he dropped. He knew it. Mr. C would say so in a few of our classes. We all had to laugh because it was true. He was a dream teacher. For me that meant he didn’t read from the text. He lectured like an actor on a stage. Sometimes a soundtrack accompanied the lesson. Other times we watched a movie or documentary. It was always more than educational. He told a story he knew like the back of his hand. Normally I found it a challenge to listen to someone talk for long stretches. Honestly I only got sleepy when I was up late the night before working on an assignment.
Mr. C introduced me to the African-American museum in my neighborhood. It wasn’t too far from the college. Hardly anyone knew it existed. Most of us thought the building was a store house for the local park/sitting area. Shameful I know, but true. Throughout other semesters, my classes went on field trips to the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Holocaust Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the other attractions of the National Mall in DC, as well as the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Maryland. Mr. C also started an International Society that hosts an annual fair at the college. The first year, he encouraged me to participate and display my jewelry. It was a good move. It’s what propelled me to go back to my first love—design.
Every year come International Festival time, he expects me to take part. I’ve only missed one. Unfortunately due to low funds, I may have to miss it this time. Last year I got recruited in the 11th hour. He was like a proud daddy seeing his kid do something they love. Thanks to Mr. C, and some other friends, I sold most of my pieces. He was one of my biggest cheerleaders.
He would give me articles on other jewelry artists or topics of interest. Mr. C would even put me on the spot in class if I was wearing a piece I made. Or he’d tell me to bring some of my work in to show the class. If there was a scholarship I was eligible for, he reminded me until I handed in my application. I didn’t give the honor society a second thought but he nominated me. After diligent studying, I graduated with honors. I know he was being supportive. And I’m thankful for that experience.
For the year and a half I had with Mr. C, it didn’t really feel like I was in school when in his classroom. He was caring, supportive, and effortless at relaying information. Social and economic backgrounds didn’t matter in his class. I felt like I was visiting a cool neighbor who reenacted historical events (sometimes in costume), played great music, and had the best stories I ever heard. Stories that I carry with me and retell. Proudly I say, Mr C told me…
Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?