This week a teacher I had in High School – over twenty years ago in Cedarburg, WI- passed away. Michael Trost was one of the really great ones. Though I did not stay in touch since leaving school, I never forgot him. One of the classes I took with him was Early English Lit and studying works from Shakespeare back to Beowulf opened me up to language beyond the standard fantasy novels I had been reading. He made learning fun and easy – I will never forget Henry’s wives fates: Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. In a time of my life when I pushed the envelope socially and stylistically, and I am sure many teachers though I was an odd duck, I never felt anything but respect from him. He even insisted we call him ‘Mike’, placing us more on equal levels.
Thankfully, Facebook allowed me to reconnect with him now when literature and language has become one of the important pieces of my life as I work towards a novel. If FB did anything good for me – besides the conduit it is for my activism and volunteering – it was giving me the ability to reconnect with such a great man. Since befriending him on the social network we have shared common interests in food, politics, dogs, nature, and of course literature. He cheered me on last November when I participated in NaNoWriMo helping motivate me to meet the 50,000 words in 30 days goal.
When I look back now I realize that what I learned in from him in what was essentially a reading class, not just about the books but the words and the craft, inspired me to want to write more than any writing class I took even into college.
In this time when public employees, including teachers, are getting the blame for budget woes, having their budgets cut, and being disrespected, he was proof that teachers can and do make a difference. We need to stand up and make sure for them and for those they care for – their students – are treated with the respect they deserve. We must ensure they have the tools to do as much as Mike did for so many.
His last post on Facebook was, fittingly: “A teacher affects eternity: he never can tell where his influence stops. Henry Adams.”
Your influence will never stop as long as I and my classmates are still here.
Well-Met good man, may we meet again.