Friday, January 06, 2006

Four Biggest Influences: Teachers

There’s a ‘4 meme’ blog floating around out there—four favorite foods, places to vacation, etc. I thought I’d change that and put together a 4 Biggest Influences Meme, one per day (except when I travel to Denver next week), beginning with teachers. Also included, over the next week or two, will be places, books, authors, movies, productions, bands/composers, websites, and modes of transportation:

Four Most Influential Teachers

Mr. Siefert
My high school world history/ideologies teacher, at St. John Lutheran High in Ocala, Florida, was like the Robin Williams character in Dead Poet’s Society: carpe diem. “At all costs,” he consistently urged us, in pushing us to do our best critical thinking through long essays we admittedly sometimes wondered whether he actually read, “avoid mediocrity.” He was no mediocre teacher and, if nothing else, my life’s goal is, I think, to avoid mediocrity.

Professors Murray and Nabors
Professors Murray and Nabors were my freshman honors biology instructors at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. They introduced me to Edward Abbey, Farley Mowat, and D.L. Lawrence—to environmental essay, and to the critical importance of thinking and then communicating well, whether in biology or in our other pursuits. That course and those instructors were an awesome passageway into college life and thinking.

R.T. Smith
Just as Rod (as I’m now allowed to call him, since he’s no longer my college teacher) carefully crafts his own poems, so he helped to craft me as a student and writer of poetry when at Auburn University in the late 80s/early 90s. What impresses me most about Rod, I think, is not simply that he knows what he’s talking about and his poetry proves it, but that he’s an outstanding—if not sometimes harsh—instructor. He was, and continues to be, my primary poetry mentor. Miriam Marty Clark, an English professor also at Auburn University, deserves kudos, as well. She introduced me to A.R. Ammons, helped me learn how to critically analyze modern American poetry, and has also served as a mentor these many years.

Michael Holleran
Michael was not only my thesis advisor in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Colorado at Denver, but also taught History of American City-Building and Good City Form, both of which opened my eyes to urban land form in America and indeed across the world. Michael’s eye for good design, artist’s hand for drafting, and ‘teacherly’ ways continue to influence and inspire my planning-related work and my thinking about the nexus between the built and natural environments.

Up Next: Four Most Influential Places

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