Ohio University Baker hall

The Impact of a Teacher

When I started my junior year of high school, I spent most of my days attached to the hip with my best friend, all of my afternoons at cheer practice, and all of my nights studying like a madwoman. I thought that the world was a scary place, that my hometown was boring and that my American Literature class would be run of the mill. Read a few books, write a few essays and move on with my life. The teacher, Mr. Nick, had other plans. Mr. Nick loved theater, the patriots, traveling, and definitely teaching. He was able to captivate our class with literature ranging from The Great Gatsby to The Things They Carried. His offbeat southern accent when reading out loud Cat on a Hot Tin Roof perfectly complemented his attempt at a Brooklyn accent when we reached Death of a Salesman. His dedication to making class enjoyable was unmatched by any teacher. 

    Mr. Nick very quickly also became a confidant for my best friend, Sammy, and I. He took the time to listen to us stress about college applications, dream about our future, and everything in between. As two people who lacked a father figure in our lives, he became a guide we didn’t ask for, but needed. He was always around to offer thoughtful advice on our toughest days, and share in our joy on our happiest days. Through the grapevine, we learned that he used to run international field trips for his students, and we very quickly jumped on his case to bring them back. Every morning for almost a year, we would walk into class and start the day off with the question “So Mr. Nick, when are you taking us to London!?” to which he always responded to with a brush off or a laugh. One spring morning however, we walked into class and before we could say anything he jumped in front of our desks and said “don’t ask, I’ve contacted my travel agent- how do London and Paris sound for next spring?” This question led to another year of class with him, most of it spent planning our great adventure. We recruited a group of students, organized our hotels and dreamt of the days we would spend wandering through cities far away. 

    When it came time for the trip, we could not have predicted just how wonderful it would be. Mr. Nick had already been to both cities and seemed to know the ins and outs of every street and tourist attraction. He snuck away with us to a local pub and bought us our first pint, with the promise of returning together someday so we could return the favor. Together we tried our best at French and our very best at British accents. We had afternoon tea, and croissants, and tomatoes with breakfast. On the van ride home from the airport, he air guitared with us to Bohemian Rhapsody. A blink after the trip ended, we were graduating and saying goodbye to a teacher that had seen us through two crazy years of class, a trip overseas and all of the laughter in between. With a promise to visit and grab that pint someday, we left for college and never turned back.

    Mr. Nick passed away on Monday, January 20th, 2020. At only 55 years old it was a shock that nobody was prepared for. Even as I write this three weeks later, I struggle to believe it. His wake was a reunion of students and teachers that stretched the decades he spent as a teacher. Every person in the two-hour-long line shared stories of a man that went above and beyond to care for his students. I never got to get him that pint, and I never got to tell him how much he meant to me. In my two years as his student, he helped me learn how to be thoughtful about the world I lived in. That I could go anywhere and do anything in that world if I was persistent and caring enough. I want to tell him my dreams of law school, and that I got to go back to that thrift shop he showed us in Paris. I want to tell him how much his classes made me smile when every other part of high school felt like it was trying to beat me down. I want just one more time to hear his attempt at a southern accent. He will always be a positive presence in my life, and no matter where I end up I will hold his memory close to my heart.

Image sources: Monique Gardon