It started when I was in high school. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do other than go to college. I was still figuring that all out (in some ways I still am).
And then I took this English class. The teacher was a guy by the name of Jerry Fondse. The class totally changed my life.
Now, I have to admit, I don’t remember exactly what we studied in that class. I don’t remember what books we read. But I do remember how Mr. Fondse instilled in me the love of reading (I already had it – but this is different) and the love of writing. He made it emjoyable to not only read for the sake of a good story but also to read for the sake of learning, of understanding people, of seeing the other viewpoint.
He opened up the door to other worlds.
And he gave me the first insight into what I wanted to do for a living. I wanted to be a Mr. Fondse.
Well, not him personally, but I wanted to go to college, get a degree in English and teach other high school kids the power of the written word, the power of understanding other people, of understanding other viewpoints, of books and reading. So, I graduated from high school and went to college with that as my goal.
I believe it was the second semester of my freshman year at Calvin when I met the second teacher who changed my world. Literally, after taking one English class with him, I rearranged my schedule and tried to take every possible English class I could take with him. And, as an English major, you do take a LOT of English classes.
He had the ability (or gift – take your pick) to make foreign literature seem comfortable.
He had the ability to help us understand stories that were written in Old English and see them as real, see them as powerful and to see the world they were written in.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were many other teachers who had a powerful impact, but Jerry Fondse and Professor James VandenBosch are the two teachers who had the biggest impact on my life and who instilled in me the desire to understand and enjoy other opinions, other worlds and other people’s stories. They also gave me the first solid glimpse into the power of writing and of sharing your story and your viewpoints through the written word.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of an excellent teacher.
Thank you, Mr. Fondse and Professor VandenBosch for being excellent teachers who had a very important and lasting impact on my life.
P.S. Coming up next – why did this guy with an English degree spent 20 years dealing with numbers?
P.S.S. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the authors that Mr. Fondse really taught me to appreciate…..