Dear Students and Parents:
I love my job and I am thankful to be here. I hope the fondness I have for my job creates an acceptable classroom atmosphere for you personally. If you somehow learn to love or even faintly like the fascination and faculty of language, reading, writing, public speaking, and British literature, even better. Mastery of English will empower you to go out and do great things when you leave school behind. No one should ever say, “Why do I need this stupid class; I already speak English good.” Believe me, I have heard those very words. This class used to be more about British literature, but now it’s more about a variety of writing skills and public speaking. Unless you plan to live alone in a cave or in a van down by the river upon graduation, this class will help, regardless of whether you are going on to college, becoming a professional, going straight into the workforce, or going into the military. You can speak and act any way you want to at home or with your friends, but when you go to apply for a job or have business dealings in the real world, you need command of the English Language. I want you to enjoy being in my classroom. I only have a couple of nitpicky rules I enforce strictly. Otherwise, I’m pretty laid back. I’ll try to keep it interesting. I believe my class is very important, but I do understand you have other significant things going on in your life. I hope you can find a balance and be successful in all things.
As for my background, I was born in downtown Memphis but my parents moved so often, it’s hard to say I’m from anywhere. Dad was an evangelist so my folks were missionaries of sorts, meaning we traveled a great deal. For a few years, we lived in a 1949 Buick Special pulling a 1950 Silver Streak two-room trailer. Switching schools was commonplace, even mid-year. I never attended the same school for three complete years. I even went to three different high schools, in Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. There were times we were on the road across America and throughout Mexico during school, so I missed my share of instruction time. I’m not condoning your truancyJ, but I know all about make-up work. I hated it more than I hated homework, of which I’m still not fond. I know all about leaving close friends and trying to survive both the real and imagined hostility heaped upon the new kid in town.
I had already lived briefly in the Texas Rio Grande Valley (San Benito –birthplace of Freddie Fender) when I was very young, but at the end of October of my junior year at Las Cruces HS, my folks decided to move there again. They picked me up at the state cross country championship in Albuquerque pulling a U-Haul trailer and off we went. I did not even get to say goodbye to my friends, but ultimately, I’m sure glad we moved. The first day, while touring Los Fresnos HS, we walked through the gym to meet the boys’ basketball coach in his office. The girls were practicing at the time and I immediately fell in love with a tall, long-legged, blond forward. I even told Ronnie, the student escorting me through a tour of the building, “I’m going to marry number 11.” I enrolled that day and was fortunate enough to sit behind number 11 in English class the next day. Long story short… Gail (#11) has been my girlfriend for almost 44 years and we have been married 41 years as of July 23. We have two beautiful kids, Bekah and Josh, and four incredible grandkids. Our granddaughter, Rowan, turned five last week and our grandson Jackson was three at Christmas. Remy is two and Willa is one. I’m very blessed.
I guess Collierville has always been home base. Most of my relatives (Croft side) either lived here in town or in Fisherville on Reid-Hooker Road. My grandparents owned a country grocery store at the corner of Collierville-Arlington and Macon and they both drove a school bus. My grandmother, mother, aunt and uncles, 32 cousins, brother and sister, and son and daughter attended Collierville High. Although I was the oldest grandchild, I’m the only one who didn’t attend CHS. After Los Fresnos, I did not go to Texas Pan American University despite being offered a basketball scholarship, but instead went to Southwest Texas State University where the love of my life (#11) had enrolled. Even though I walked onto the team, and we both had scholarship offers, we decided to marry and moved to Tennessee. I held several jobs such as, carpenter, window treatment installer, youth director, basketball official, non-faculty track and cross country coach at CHS, to name a few. I finally figured out I wanted to teach and coach.
Unlike every teacher in this building, I did not have a teacher who inspired me to become a teacher. I never had a favorite teacher or coach. I was never at ease around any of them. It wasn’t until Memphis State Univ. that I had a teacher who inspired me. I was 30, owned my own business, and had two kids when I started college over. I was even older than Ryland Bruhwiler who taught my freshman writing class, but I chose English as a major because of her. After a BA in English with concentrations in creative writing, linguistics, American and British literature, I pursued a Masters of Art in Teaching degree. I interned and taught for nine years at Kirby High. I transferred to Collierville in 1999, so I think this makes 27 years. I coached girls’ basketball and track and field for 25 years and cross country for 12. Although I truly loved it, I retired from coaching last year to devote more time to family and to my own health. I love it here and hope to remain a Dragon until I retire in 2042.
It will be apparent that I am ancient, but you’ll find I’m also resilient. I’m blessed to have survived stage III cancer in 2011, two myocardial infarctions in 2013 and 2014, and quintuple bypass surgery last summer. I feel better than I have in nearly two decades. It’s amazing what a little blood flow through the heart can do for a fella. I feel great, so don’t think you can do something in class to give me a heart attack and get rid of me that easily.
I’m looking forward to a great year. I want to see you succeed. I want you to enjoy your last year, and I’ll be proud to watch you walk across that stage May 18th. Please arrive each day with a clean slate, a positive attitude, an open mind, and be respectful of everyone in class. I’ll try to do the same.