This is a topic that I’ve been avoiding writing about since I brought my blog back to life last August (Has it really already been a year?). There are so many emotions involved with bringing this to life. How can I write about someone who changed my life so much and hope to do him justice? I’ll certainly try…
I’ve always been good at English. I was the top in my class when it came to reading, writing and all things that had to do with the English language. Give me a book and I would fly through it within a mere day or two. Reading possessed me. It made me feel special in a world where nothing else did. In 9th grade, my English teacher, fed up with me begging him for new book recommendations, gave me a list of 100 books to read from January to June. To him, it was a joke. To me, it was as though someone had handed me a million dollars in cash and said, “Here kid, go have fun.” The fact that I wanted to write novels didn’t occur to me until I was in high school. Though I had always been a story teller, most of the writing I had done until my teenage years had been extremely personal, and I honestly had no want or need to bring my stories to life for others. Somehow, that came about. But, that’s another story for another time.
Now, while I did fairly well in most other school subjects, math was by far my worst. Math was my arch nemisis. I hated it with every fiber of my being- I hated how it made me feel. I hated how vulnerable and ashamed I would become when my teachers would pick on me to perform an equation in front of the whole class, knowing very well that I had no idea what I was doing. And while I was good at so many other things, my terrible math grades always made me feel lesser than. Classmates in younger grades used to make fun of me for it (imagine being one of the only Seniors in a Freshman Math Class. Yeah, it was not fun).
All of this changed when Mr. McRoberts became my math teacher.
My 10th grade math class started out just as everyone I had ever had did: With an assessment test. I still shiver about those (and the thought of taking one for my college placement test next week is even more terrifying…). Being that my math scores the year before had been so low, I was placed in a class called Consumer Math. I looked around at the other girls in my class, all of whom could care less about math than I did, and then at our new math teacher, Mr. McRoberts. This was his first teaching job out of college. I remember giving him the same look I had given every single math teacher that had taught me since kindergarten. The “It’s not you that I hate, it’s the subject you’re teaching that I hate” look. I walked into that class expecting what I had expected every year. I knew that he would give it a try, but after several failed attempts to make my brain function normally, he would give up, leaving my math- less existence to rest. That’s where I was wrong.
I wouldn’t say that the burden of math become any easier, because the truth is that it didn’t. But, I stopped dreading it as much. I stopped hating it with every fiber of my being. Dare I say it, I actually began to enjoy it. It wasn’t because the subject suddenly become easier to comprehend. It was because Mr. Mic cared. He cared so much for every single student. Never before had I seen a teacher pour so much dedication and consideration into his classroom and his students so effortlessly. It came as second nature to him. It became about so much more than just math. You have to understand that I went from feeling constantly humiliated when the subject of math came up to (shockingly enough) proud of myself. Proud even when the grade on my test wasn’t an A, proud even when the Freshman were in Pre-Calc while I was still counting on my fingers (and that’s only a slight exaggeration). I was proud because for once, I didn’t feel like my teacher was ashamed of me; he made it his mission to help us all succeed.
The first time I told Mr. Mic about Shattered Illusions was six weeks after I started writing it. It was right after taking a math test (which I had quite obviously failed). I was slumped over in my chair, with my back bent over as I scribbled furiously in my plotline notebook. It took me a few seconds to realize that he was standing over my desk, staring at me. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Working on my novel,” I answered back, quite nonchallantly. At that point, only three people knew about ‘it’ and I wasn’t ready to bring the subject to the light yet. “Ah. That’s pretty cool,” he said, then walked back to his desk, picked up my test, and handed it to me. “You can do better than this.” I remember feeling extremely overhwhelmed and frustated over having to give a test that I had so easily given up on another chance. But, Mr. Mic was waiting for me to try, so I did. I handed it in the same way I had the first time, with a lack of faith in myself. I was extremely surprised when he handed it back to me at the end of the week with an “A” on it. “I told you,” he said. Talk about confidence.
There are so many things I could say about Mr. Mic. He was everybody’s favorite teacher. His class was the highlight of my day. He cared for every single student. His dedication went beyond the classroom. He was the kind of teacher that I want to be.
I remember the day he died like it was yesterday. I was in camp: The day was hot and my campers were driving me crazy. Mr. Mic had been working at camp that summer, but had been missing from his weekly activity for a few days. He wasn’t feeling good, they said. I had spoken to him two days earlier about a book he had recommended, Cryptonomicon. I was waiting to see him in person that day so we could discuss a part of the book that I was stumped about. One of my campers had scrapped her knee and I was taking her to the office to get a bandaid when I heard the news. Everyone around campus looked grave and distraught, the whispers were all around, yet, no one said a word. I walked by the cafeteria and the lunch lady stopped me: “Did you hear? The math teacher died this morning, ” she said, ever so casually. I told her that that wasn’t possible, he was in his twenties. There was no way. I didn’t believe her. When I walked into the office, I was greeted by ghostly faces of my peers. My high school Vice Principal was there. I looked her and I didn’t have to ask. I knew the rumors were true. I don’t remember what happened next. I can’t remember if I fainted first or if the tears were firs to come. I somehow found myself in the VP’s office…Why were we talking about what a great guy he HAD BEEN? Why weren’t we talking about the great guy that he was in present tense? Why weren’t we preparing to see him later on in the day? Because the present tense was gone. All of a sudden, without warning, one of the most inspriring people in my life was gone.
My copy of Cryptonomicon still has the notes and the markers about the questions I wanted to ask him.
I told myself that if Shattered Illusions was ever published, I would dedicate it to Mr. Mic. That became my goal. The book had to come to life because I had to find a way to thank him. The drive to finish it stemed from the courage that Mr. Mic taught me to have, inside the classroom and out.
It’s been three years since we lost Mr. Mic. The impact that he had on his students continues to this day. He not only taught his students how to succeed in the classroom, he taught us how to succeed in life. For that lesson, I am forever grateful.