I begin this entry on a somewhat solemn note. Three days ago, by chance I was on Facebook, when I found out that a beloved former university professor of mine had passed away.
It was a terrible shock. Dr. Child was an older gentleman, but was fairly health conscious and appeared to be well when I had last seen him, although it was a few years ago, before I left Washington, DC. He was a fascinating individual who was deeply passionate about his field of Latin American studies. His enthusiasm for everything that had to do with the Spanish language and Latin America became inevitably contagious as the weeks went on as I took his class. Just one class was all I took with him, but it was all I needed to identify the characteristics and qualities that I hoped to possess one day as a novice teacher on the verge of entering the educational field.
He was creative and wasn’t the least bit hesitant to be a bit “off the wall” in his approach. During one particular class we were learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis in great detail. He had turned off the lights at one point and popped in a related DVD. The next thing I knew, the blinding florescent lights were abruptly turned on. To all of our surprise, there was Professor Child in a Fidel Castro mask, wearing and army uniform, and brandishing a Cuban cigar! Addressing us in Spanish in such a manner and tone that only Cuba’s former dictator could, he roared, “I am Fidel Castro! You may ask me anything you wish!”
This was just one of the many dynamic lessons that Professor Child gave us. Some were serious, some were incredibly thought-provoking, some were light hearted, and some required more concentration to grasp the subject at hand. But each one was unique and demonstrated a great amount of thought, detail, planning, and love for the subject.
But more than anything, there was one moment that stands out in my mind more than all of the others. Although it was about seven years ago, I will never forget how he started out the very first day of the course that I was taking:
“Thank you,” he told us. “Thank you for taking this course. I love to teach, and without students, I would not be able to do what I love.”
That was the kind of educator he was.
And now he is gone. It is difficult to comprehend someone who was so enthusiastic and fascinating, who was literally living history, who I recall so vividly as being dead. And although three days have passed since I learned of his death, I am still trying to grasp it. Despite this, one thought came to me immediately, which is that Professor Child had lived an extraordinary and fulfilling life. I am just one of the many people who he reached, not only as a student in a formal university class, but in a much greater sense. He reaffirmed that I chose well when I decided to become a teacher. He reinforced the important message that if you are going to do something, it’s okay to be different or quirky; in fact, that’s the best way to anything. But above all, he emphasized the importance of doing what you love to do in life.
Que En Paz Descanse, Profesor…. y gracias por todo que me enseñaste.