On World Teachers’ Day

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I noticed on Twitter that today is World Teachers’ Day. Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of ability. Like any other occupation there are good teachers and bad teachers, and we have all experienced both kinds during the course of our lives. All of us have teachers who made a marked difference in our lives. I have my list: from elementary school, Mrs. Nies; from Jr. High, Mrs. Pinki Riess and Mrs. Matthews; from high school, Mr. Lennie Dauphin; from college, Dr. Ralph Wooster; from seminary, Dr. Tom Nettles and Dr. Curtis Vaughn. Of course, we also have those who robbed the tax payers and had no business being called an educator such as…you really thought I would name names?

There are two requirements of a good teacher. First of all, he (or she) must have a mastery of the material. One can’t “teach” what one doesn’t “know.” However, that is not enough. I once had a geology professor who I am sure knew all there was to know about rock formations, sediments, salt domes, etc. but could never keep any of us awake long enough to pass the information along to us. He was similar to a certain preacher of whom it was said, “could go down deeper, stay down longer, and come up drier than anyone on the face of the earth.

A teacher must also have the ability to pass on his knowledge to his students. He (or she) must be able to communicate, and pass on his love of learning. The best example of such a teacher in my life as a student was Joseph Lambert, a history professor at Lamar University from the early 1970s until his death approximately twenty years later. There was no doubt that he knew the material, there was no doubt that he loved learning, and there was no doubt that he was able to pass on his love for learning to his students. He actually cared for and related to his students. I discovered this when I took his freshman World Civilization course. I had Spanish the hour before his class and often came in whining about Dr. Smith and the misery she was putting us through. So, lo and behold, when I received my blue book back from him after our first test, he had written all of his comments in Spanish (I later found out he took the time to get Dr. Pineda to translate what he wanted to say into Spanish so he could do that).

After two semesters of World Civ, he impressed me enough that I took him for two semesters of Russian history. He never tried to push his political views on us, or endeavor to become some great “change agent” (I am sure he would have been a great disappointment to John Dewey), he simply taught us the cause and effect of history, and taught us to desire to dig deeper, and go “ad fontes” (to the sources). Oh, by the way, you never came into his class late. If the door was shut, just head back to the Setzer Center and play spades because he wasn’t going to let you in.

So on this day that honors great educators, I tip my hat to one of the best, Joseph Lambert. May your tribe increase!

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