#2: I guess it does seem a little cliché to say that your English teachers were your role models and muses, but it's quite true. I was a geek in high school, as much as one could be with Atari, 8-tracks, and Saturday morning cartoons, and I remember reading... a lot. My most favorite memories of being at Commack High School South were in the classrooms of Al Kindelmann, Jim Mahoney, Al Candia, and Jack McGrath.
These teachers inspired me, guided me, challenged me to levels of insight I didn't know I could reach. All of these teachers, and Mr. Ferrotti as well (who taught me Latin and Spanish), pushed me. They saw something in me that perhaps I couldn't see in myself.
When I was graduating, I (of course) had my teachers sign my yearbook, and one teacher—Mr. McGrath—wrote something that has forever changed who I am. It was the kindling spark to help me write the novel, Task Force: Gaea. Over the years, all 27 of them, I would reflect back on this quotation he wrote and it would re-energize me.
"On a blue Aegean night, when all the gods and nymphs have said adieu, your muse will find new life."
This quote resonates with me, and that is why I dedicated my novel to Mr. McGrath. He, like Mr. Kindelmann, Mr. Mahoney, Mr. Candia, and Mr. Ferrotti, left an indelible mark on me, and I wouldn't wash it off if I could. Mr. Kindelmann taught 9th grade honors English, I believe, and he was the kind of teacher you couldn't help but listen to when he talked about literature. His humorous personality helped forge my own in the classroom, and sometimes I ask myself, "How would Mr. Kindelmann handle this?"
Mr. Candia also had the energetic personality and teaching style that I try to emulate now. His attention to detail in my work forced me to become much more scrutinizing. When we worked on the yearbook, I designed the art for it, and he supported my decisions and guided me to making more informed ones as well.
By the way, these photos of my teachers aren't how I remember him (it was from a yearbook years before I had them as teachers); but, it doesn't matter what they looked like—these were people who had a profound impact on me as a person and an educator.
My muse has indeed found new life, Mr. McGrath, and I thank you for it.
Mr. Ferrotti taught me Spanish and Latin, and that language spark also kept me going over the years. My interest in Classical literature (Cato, Catullus, Virgil) all came from him. In fact, I still have a copy of the Odyssey that belonged to Mr. Ferrotti, and whenever I look through it, I remember his deep voice talking about conjugations and declensions. He also tried to tutor me in Italian, but I think my 17 year old brain could only handle so much at once, so I stuck with Spanish and Latin. I still regret not going on that trip to Italy and Greece. Someday, Sr. Ferrotti, some day!
I took a college course in high school—I guess it would be considered dual enrollment now—through C. W. Post University on Long Island, and Mr. Mahoney was the instructor. He, too, brought out my love of literature and writing. I've recently been in touch with Mr. Mahoney, and he gave me Mr. Grath's contact information, so I could finally tell him how much of an impact he has had on me.
The debt I owe these teachers can't be repaid since I wouldn't know what I could ever do to show them my gratitude.
Next: #3—Former students