This morning, on my high school class' Facebook page there were several posts from classmates talking about a piece Lynn Skapyak Harlin, one of our own, wrote about one of our teachers in my hometown newspaper, the Florida Times-Union as part of their back-to-school special. That got me to thinking about how much impact our teachers had on our lives, not only during our school years but also in the years that followed.
The teacher that had the impact on me was our Band and Earth Science teacher, Charles B. Hoffecker. Charley came to teach at the beginning of my junior year. He had just retired from the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer who had served much of his naval career flying dirigibles. He, his wife and two sons moved into a home not too far from where I lived, a fact that played a big part in our relationship. Our high school was on the other side of town and I used to ride city busses to and from school. Charlie thought that was a waste of our parent's money, so he took it upon himself to become our chauffeur without a second thought to the potential liability to which he was exposing himself. Several of us boys and girls met on a street corner a few blocks from home and he would pick us up every morning at 7:15 and deliver us just in time for school. After I received my driver's license, he would often let me drive under his watchful eye and careful supervision. I will never forget the look on some of my classmates faces as I drove a teacher's car into the school parking lot and tossed the keys over the car to him as he got out of the passenger side.
The thing that was most special about Charlie was the way he looked at the bright side of life. As a WW II veteran, he saw his share of tough times during his young adulthood, but that did not sour his disposition. He began every class and band rehearsal with a smile and a joke that made you glad to be there. He had a simple way of explaining things be it how to "triple tongue" a trumpet or how the mathematics of celestial orbits kept the heavenly bodies where they should be. He made learning fun.
By far the greatest lesson that Charley ever taught was how to live. Charley taught this lesson by example. He showed us that you can treat everyone around you with respect and kindness, that you can have integrity even when others around you are cynical and devious. That you can do what is right always. There were some around that did not respect Charley because he was not an academic in the strictest sense of the word. He did not graduate from an Ivy League college. He was not a football star. He did not have delusions of grandeur. He was an ordinary Joe, who served his country, raised a family and taught a whole bunch of young men and women what it meant to live a good life. Thanks Charley!