Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ode to a Goofball

In a matter of days, my alma mater (high school, that is) will be saying goodbye to an institution. He entered the halls as a freshman in the fall of 1964 and other than a 4 year stint at a college I shan't name (for it is the rival of my OTHER alma mater), he hasn't left. He has spent every year since the fall of 1973 being strict, interesting, ridiculous, entertaining, educational, and inspiring in room 5.

The students at this school who did NOT pass through his class as a student during one of their four years are few and far between. And even THEY would probably all be able to tell you at least one high school memory that centers around this nut.

He's a bit off-kilter. (I mean, come on! I've seen proof of his teaching in cheerleading uniforms - the female variety, tutus, a Nerd candy box - supersized, of course, AND he has the largest collection of troll dolls I've ever seen all collecting dust in the corner of his room.)

He tells jokes -- really BAD jokes -- every single day in his classes. In fact, he cares so much about his jokes, that on a 2 week stint of substituting for him, part of the lesson plan was to read at least one joke from his joke folder. It's a sickness that can't be cured in this man.

He is a vault of mundane trivia on topics ranging from Alabama football (recruits, scores, plays, stats) to just about any oldie you ever heard (including who sang it, the year it came out, and what was on the B side). He'll share it with you. Just ask him. :)

He participates in just about everything that happens at the school. He announces the football games (and has for as long as just about anyone can remember). He MCs the Blast from the Past (oh yeah, and he's a co-creator/co-director of the show as well). He helps with the county Special Olympics. He helps run the Christmas party for underpriviledged children. He cooks for just about any function that needs something grilled (from fundraisers to faculty meals).

He stands in the halls conjugating (inside joke) with his students, speaking to everyone who passes - knowing pretty much everyone by name. He can tell you who their parents are (and which ones he taught), who excells at this or that, and which is the kid that needs to be shooed along to their next class to avoid trouble. But he can also tell you which kid's family is going through a hardship right now, who just lost a family member, and which of the students could really use a hug at least once a day to help keep their head afloat.

He teaches English - vocabulary, Mythology, literature, grammar. He is actually the one who taught me to LOVE reading. (I still read every single night before going to sleep - getting in about a book a week. And I hope to eventually become a school librarian because of this love.) He also inspired me (against a lifetime of telling anyone who would listen that I was NOT going to become a teacher) to become a teacher. He made me LOVE literature, authors, and yes, most importantly, grammar. He showed me how it all worked and why it was important and he made me want to show it to others. I think most anyone who had him will tell you he's a GREAT teacher of English.

More importantly, though, I think any student who passed through the high school would tell you what he meant, not to their grammatical or literature-based knowledge, but to their souls, spirits, beings. The man is a nutjob. (I can attest from first-hand experience.) But he's a nutjob that LOVES his students. They are his life. He spends almost as much energy as he has thinking about, entertaining, and caring for all the students at the high school. He loves them all 4 years they walk the halls, but he continues to love each one post-graduation - proof-reading papers, attending weddings, or just visiting as they pass on the street.

He is as much a part of that high school as the tiled floors and cinder block walls. I don't remember a time that I walked into that school without being greeted by him and hearing a story or joke. I don't think anyone does. I fear the school will become a much quieter, tamer, less-humerous place when he's no longer there each day. (Although, let's face it, when you love something that much, you can never quit cold-turkey. He'll be around.)

Yes, this institution - this great teacher and man will be missed at that high school every single day by many, many people. His laughter, silliness, knowledge, and love will leave a hole that will take some big shoes to fill.

The good news is that I still get to see him or talk to him anytime I like, because he's my Daddy and the goofiest Poppa you ever met. :)

We all love you very much, Diddy! Thank you for all 36 years of service, love, and goofiness!

Love & Shipoopies,


Camily said...

I love this post! I was thinking "What an amazing teacher! What a great man!" And then to read that he's your daddy . . .so sweet! I just love it!

He & Me + 3 said...

that was the neatest and best post about your Dad ever. How cool. At first I was wondering how you knew so much about a teacher. Love it.
Happy Retirement!

Enjoy and I hope that they find someone worthy to fill your spot.

Laura Ward said...

What a wonderful post about such a wonderful man. He will be missed (that is, when he's not substituting, visiting, or giving his valuable opinion)!

His Jules said...

I had the pleasure of being taught by your father back in the early eighties and it was the highlight of my high school years!! This was a great trip down memory lane for me - Thanks and give my best to your dad!

Julie Atkinson Reynolds

Johnni Opposite said...

I was a student of your fathers about 12 years ago. I was terribly fond of him. In one of the yearbooks there is a picture of us on Cowboy/Indian day during homecoming week. Mr. McKee had dressed as an actual cow, and I was decked out in my India-inspired garb. What a pair we made! I walked through the doors that morning and there must have been five or more people who all yelled "Go see Mr. McKee NOW!" Knowing Mr. McKee, I could only imagine what he was up to. When I walked into his classroom, the look on his face was PRICELESS! And I'm sure it was mirrored by my own face. It was a great day, and only one of the eight million memories I have of that man. There is always something that makes me think of him. I hope he knows how many lives he touched, and what an exceptional spirit he had. There must be thousands who think of him as often and as fondly as I do. I feel like future generations of CCHS students are being robbed of a life experience that we older generations have carried with us throughout our adult lives, and will continue to carry with us. I do so love Mr. McKee.