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?
This question includes a broad range of people. This could include the professional teacher at an institution for learning, or the person who sat with you day after day and patiently, and some days not so patiently, taught you how to do the job you do. It could include a person on the street who taught you an important lesson in life, and it could be a parent or family member who taught you the skills to become successful in anything and everything you do. While I have had teachers in all these areas, many having profound impacts on my life, for now I will talk about the teachers in schools who really impacted me.
Sherman, set the way back machine for 1979. I was in Texas History at Memorial Middle School. History for me, history of any sort, was dull and would not keep my interest. It was full of dates and a lot of dead people. At the time there were several teachers who taught Texas History, and there were mixed opinions of which teacher you’d want to have when it came time to take the class. However, the general consensus was there was one teacher you absolutely did not want to get.
He was hard, everyone failed his tests and there was lots of homework.
First day of school that year as they were passing out class schedules I was dreading to see who I had been awarded (a term I learned in the Navy, that doesn’t always mean a good thing) for my Texas History teacher. Sure enough it was, him, the dreaded teacher of all for this subject. Mr. Burns only taught Texas History to my knowledge, he didn’t sideline from being a coach to teach a class also. His one goal and position was to teach tweens and young teens the past of this fine state.
I’m not sure how old Mr. Burns was at the time, but there was a story that he himself would have also been at the Alamo had his horse not thrown a shoe which caused him to show up late. Entering his classroom for the first time, I saw a man strong in stature, skin like leather, and a very distinctive deep wrinkle pattern on the back of his neck – like a diamond pattern. The walls were littered with bits of rusty metal, odd pictures and various maps. I found and sat in desk, consigned that this year could not end fast enough, and this one class was going to make it twice as long.
As it turns out, the scraps of rusted metal, were actually old hand tools, traps, and farm equipment including, I believe, a plow blade. Later he would say that these were some of the tools used to shape and build the Texas landscape and cities to what we know now. I remember sitting and thinking, maybe day dreaming a little much, about what life would be like today if we still had a life style those that used these tools how much different and harder life would be for me. I mean having to help plow the fields before and after school, or taking care of livestock. Where was the play time? Where was the TV and the Atari?!?!? Maps showed the various battles, territories, settlements that combined demonstrated – visually – the progress of settlers from various nations, land claims and trades. His class room was a museum of sorts.
If for no one else that year, it brought history alive for me. It was no longer dates and people who lived long ago. I was there! I was crossing the vast Texas landscape in a wagon, I was fighting against the tyranny of mexico, defending my house from the indians. Not only could I feel and understand the hardships and conflicts of the time, I became even more appreciative of my modern world of luxuries and conveniences.
I was a B / C student most of the time, with heavy emphasis on the C. In his class I excelled, with A and B grades. I learned that year that learning new things was not tedious and just going through the motions. Mr. Burns Brought Texas History out of the text-book and into my life and imagination. I looked forward to his class most days. Those I didn’t were usually due to not having done the homework or such.
I don’t remember if I ever told him at the end of the year, and whether I did or not, Thank you Mr. Burns for all that did and all that you gave in your class.