Philip Schubert is the meanest teacher in the world. I know, because I was in his Speech Class during my sophomore year at Fort Atkinson High School inWisconsin. The whole idea of taking speech class, a required subject, terrified me. You see,Fort High was exactly the seventh school that I had attended in three different states. As the child of an alcoholic step father, life was difficult and I wore that pain by being inverted. Some people mistook my fear of the world as being shy.
Our first speech in Mr. Schubert’s class was a two minute introduction. “My name is Cleo Anne Meiners”, and, well, fill in the rest with your life story. Mr. Schubert’s rule dictated that only one 3×5 note card written on one side could be used in the presentation. After composing my speech, I rehearsed it out loud enough times to have it memorized and timed it at exactly two minutes, another requirement. The day of the speech, I wore a comfortable outfit and a nervous disposition.
Philip Schubert, a hulk of a man who drove trucks cross country in the summer, positioned himself in the back of the room with a stop watch. How intimidating is that? Next to him sat Grant Turner, the only junior in a sophomore class. Grant carried the bad boy image well as a cross between the Fonz, and James Dean from “Rebel Without a Cause”. He slouched in his chair with a bored expression.
The dreaded moment arrived, and I walked to the front of the room. The first sentence of my speech, “My name is Cleo Anne Meiners”, went well. Then I started to cry. And cry. And cry. And wail. Slowly I stepped back to my chair with the arm.
“You will not sit down until you have finished your speech.”
I dragged my feet back to the front. More crying. The audience of thirty-eight students squirmed uncomfortably in their chairs. No tissue. I wiped my nose on the back of my hand, and, between sobs, spoke for two minutes. Mr. Schubert let me sit down.
When the passing bell rang, the class bolted for the exit. I sat alone in the room, or so it seemed. Footsteps from behind made me lift my head. Grant stood beside me, and he flipped his DA (duck’s tail hairdo). In an Elvis-infused voice, he breathed, “I felt sorry for you.” Then Grant strolled out of the room, his blue jeans riding low on his hips, his tee shirt sleeves rolled over his cigarettes.
Grant Turner became a hero to this preppy teen because of his compassion.
Later that semester, Mr. Schubert encouraged me to join Forensics. For two years, I won at the local level and went to District, but never to State. Today, I speak to groups or read liturgy at church. I have taught for twenty-six years.
Thanks, Mr. Schubert, for being so mean and making me finish that speech. It changed my life.
The impact of Mr. Schubert cannot be underestimated. Did you have a teacher who changed your life? Tell me about it. Or share your story in a future blog. Send your teacher story to firstname.lastname@example.org.