One Who Truly Inspired

Posted by MNAngler On August - 16 - 2010

I’ve written once before that as you go through life, you’ll meet hundreds, probably thousands, of people. But only a few will have an impact on your life. Most of us have a teacher that changed our life in some way. While I can’t say any one teacher changed my life, one had an impact. His name was Dr. Jon Barber. He was my high school advanced physics teacher. I found out this weekend that he passed away last week.

What made Dr. Barber a good teacher was his humor and his passion for teaching. He always had a smile on his face and was always ready with a funny quip. He made learning fun by teaching through demonstrations rather than with textbooks. He made all students feel special by giving tootsie pops to them on their birthday. And if you were lucky enough to have a one on one conversation with him, he had the gift of making you feel like you were the most interesting person on the planet. Probably because he was truly interested. He taught thousands of students through his 30 year career, yet he could remember you by name if he ran into you on the street years after you graduated.

I once got to interview him for a class assignment in another subject. One of the questions was, “What is your greatest accomplishment?” His reply was simply, “learning to read.” That answer was the epitome of Dr. Barber. Unexpected, humorous, and humble all at the same time.

I had the pleasure of attending his memorial service this morning (as much as attending a memorial service can be a pleasure). One eulogy recounted that when going around the table at Thanksgiving to tell what each person was thankful for, Dr. Barber’s answer was, “gravity.” Another told of a time where he insisted on paying his best friend for a pair downhill skis he had given away years before. The friend refused payment, but eventually relented and asked only for a dollar. Dr. Barber talked him down to $.75 and then negotiated a three month installment plan.

These stories are just a few examples of his sense of humor. He had the mind of a comedian, the intelligence of a Nobel laureate, and the magnetic personality of a Hollywood star. He started the Physics Force, a physics demonstration troupe with several other physics teachers. But his stage presence overshadowed all the others.

I’m not a teacher in my day job, but I am the coach of my daughter’s Lego League team. I like to interject humor when I’m coaching, teach with demonstrations rather than lectures, and try to point out each kid’s strength when I recognize it. It didn’t occur to me until today that I probably picked that up from a former teacher of mine. One who truly inspired.

2 Responses to “One Who Truly Inspired”

  1. teachers change everyones live people we meet also tell us some good or bad things we need to inculcate the good ones and let the bad ones go by

  2. Rebecca says:

    He sounds just the like the type of person I love hanging out with. Someone with a great sense of humor, a witty conversation and the type of person that makes a lasting impression.
    This was a great tribute and I thank you for sharing him with us ~

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