Back to the Past

February 24, 2012
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Mr. Rhinehold, my fifth grade teacher, is a huge man…with an equally large gut. Even now, the memory of his class brings back my few fond instances in school. As my first male teacher, he definitely left an impression in my mind.

I can’t say he had the best teaching methods. I cannot say he was the nicest or most easy-going teacher, either. But he was always fair. And he always went about things in an interesting way.

At a time in my life where I didn’t have friends in school, and I was bullied, Mr. Rhinehold’s class was a safe haven. He was the first teacher to ever recognize my skill for writing—and he never let me forget it, either.

We used to have thirty to sixty minutes a day dedicated solely to creative writing. He would begin by writing a fragment of a sentence on the board. This was not just an ordinary dialogue. It was something unusual and we were to take that fragment of a sentence and make a story out of it.

After awhile, it got to the point when almost every day, Mr. Rhinehold had me reading my stories to the class, complimenting me in private on the progress I was making. That’s about the time I started to make friends with people in my class.

I think Mr. Rhinehold knew I was having a hard time in school, but he never gave me special treatment. Instead, he was as real with me as he was with any other student and I had profound respect for him because of it.

I know he was a great teacher because I’m seventeen-years-old and I am still thinking about his class. I owe a lot of my academic achievements to him, especially for encouraging me when it seemed like everyone else was putting me down. I owe him for telling me I could write when I couldn’t see it myself. And I owe it to him for helping make friends.

He was my friend, as well as my teacher—and he really was. And I mean this not in the corny fruitcake kind of way that a kid would say to win a contest, but in the real sense. I talked to him like a friend and suddenly a new meaning of the word respect began to take place. He was the first adult I decided to trust, and the respect that I gave him was respect he earned through not faltering in my trust.

Thank you, Mr. Rhinehold. I have never forgotten how you treated everybody in that class, and I have not forgotten how you helped me and encouraged me to keep moving forward.

I have not heard or seen him since fifth grade, but winning this award would be a long overdue present to the greatest teacher I have ever had.

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