Sunday, February 22, 2009

thank you, Mr. Stanko

Some people fade in our memory while others stick in our mind for a very long time. There's someone in my past who keeps coming to mind, and I'd like to find him and thank him.

He was Mr. John Stanko, my 8th grade English teacher. He seemed like an older guy then, but he was probably only in his mid-twenties. Mr. Stanko was portly, loud, and unpredictable: a sort of dark-haired, literary Einstein who tinkered with the potential in his students. He loved coffee: the air around his head smelled of it. He sometimes brought his coffee cup with him to class, a man ahead of his time.

Mr. Stanko was passionate about his subject, and writing in particular. So passionate that he required us 13-year-old dweebs to write something EVERY SINGLE DAY of eighth grade. At the time, I thought this to be cruel and unusual punishment. "Come on, Mr. Stanko, just one day off?" we'd whine. My girlfriends and I had more pressing concerns, like passing notes during class.

"NO!" he'd bellow, pacing and waving his beloved e.e. cummings collection over his head. "You will learn to write this year, so you will write! Now write!" And we'd put pencil to paper.

Over the months, a curious thing happened. I began to like writing more and more. And I began to look forward to Mr. Stanko's critiques of my work. One day he handed back my essay on winter. His brief, generous comment: "worthy of Frost." That essay is tucked in a box of my childhood treasures.

Mr. Stanko, you taught me well. You made me remember you and what you were about. Your purpose was not to make a student happy or her learning easy. From you I learned to catch a love of words and uncover a passion that might have remained buried.

Thank you, Mr. Stanko, wherever you are.


Anonymous said...

What a great teacher...and a great learner. He sounds like someone who could really bring out the hidden writer in a person.

Such a clever comment he made on your paper.

Dave said...

Have you ever thought about tracking him down?

barb said...

I'd love to track him down, but so far have had no success.

John M. Stanko said...

I'm John Stanko and taught english for years in CT. Portly, loud, and unpredictable, well maybe - loved cummings - yes. Tortured student with writing - definitely. One of the perks of the profession. Barb who and what year?

barb said...