Many great words have been written on behalf of teachers. I consider myself lucky to have had a least a dozen great teachers, each with their own personalitites, but one common bond, enthusiasm. That enthusiasm was infectious, whatever the subject.
Grades 1-8 were spent in Catholic School. Unlike all the bad books out about a catholic school education, I had mostly good experiences.
Looking back I am in awe that these nuns and lay people were paid little or nothing to educate us. We had 30+ students in a classroom and besides the teacher speaking you could hear a pin drop. Our tutition was $8.00 a year and my mother struggled to pay for the four of us.
The first male teacher to enter our school was Mr. McClain. He was handsome and fresh out of college. He made learning Math so much fun we couldn’t wait to open those books and read the lesson for the day. Immediately after we read the lesson, we closed the book and talk about the praticality of the lesson.
Mr McClain would talk about life, life situations that math might be involved in solving. He would say “Math is Life and Life is Math.” Everything to him involved a number, today if he were teaching, all of life would be on a spreadsheet! I would go home and balance my mother’s checkbook and calculated how much wallpaper and carpeting she would need! Today, I cannot do either of those tasks.
At magical times in my life Mr. McClain can back to me. His only son, Gino, was at the same school (catholic) as my children.
We shared many a good chuckle about our learning experiences. While I was thinking that he was sure and sophicated he was telling me that he was frightened and unsure that he had made the right career decision. He also confided to me that his salary was $5000.00 a year. Another reason to laugh, and ponder how much things have changed.
We moved to Ohio and I lost track of Mr. McClain again.
Returning back to PA eight years later, Mr McClain appeared to me one last time. He had throat cancer and was struggling to keep his voice. That magnificent vibrato voice, the one we hung on to every last syllable, was about to leave me again.
I can close my eyes and see him walking around the room, with his magical counting clicker, even to this day. The clicker was his gimmick to get us to stay alert. If your guessed the number that was on the clicker at any given point in the class when he called out “Number” you had no homework for the evening. What fun, what magic, what a teacher.
Thanks Mr. McClain.