Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Moravian Moment

Congratulations to Heather! I'm so excited to celebrate the RITA nomination for The Clearing this week with another post about inspiring elders (and another chance to with the fabulous farmhouse prize pack Heather is giving away).

When I was in graduate school (studying Historic Preservation at Columbia University) one of our first year required classes as called Basic Principles of Traditional Construction. We studied things like brick recipes, house framing, and roofing techniques. The professor was a distinguished old (like 85-years-old old) Czech-born architect named Jan Pokorny. He wore a blazer and a bow tie every day and always showed up early for class.

I have a special connection to the Czech and Slovak people because my dad's theatre design mentor was also Czech. Actually, he was also Moravian, the area between the Czech republic and Slovakia. He once told my father that, when the country was still Czechoslovakia and they would play the national anthems at events, Moravia was the space between the two.

I really enjoyed that class because I love learning how things are built. I loved learning about the different kinds of siding used in Colonial housing and how to make different colored bricks by adding certain things to the recipe. The class also happened to be right after lunchtime, so I often got there early to eat lunch in my seat before the other students started showing up.

One day, Jan came in and started making notes on the board. Feeling a little awkward, I tried to make some small talk and asked him about being Moravian. When he saw that I knew what Moravia was, his eyes lit up. He asked if I was Moravian. I told him no, but that we had close family friends who were.

From that moment on I was his favorite student (well, it did help that I scored highest on the midterm test). He eventually made me T.A. for the class and was the faculty sponsor of our class trip to Prague before graduation.

Jan is no longer with us, but I can still picture his smiling round face, his quirky bow ties, and the neat and precise architectural drawings he used to make on the board. At 85 he still swam laps every day, still taught every semester, still designed and sat on committees and made a significant contribution to the world of historic preservation and the world in general. I am inspired to be as active as possible for as long as possible.

Okay, to enter today, comment with a favorite or inspiring teacher and why. Be sure to comment on all the other posts this week for more entries and check back on Sunday to find out if you've won!




Steph said...

One of my favorite teachers is my Creative Writing teacher. He has learned so much throughout his life, and I know his childhood was far from easy. (That's his story, so I don't want to share any details, really. It's not my business.) Whenever I need to know something, he has the answers. He works hard with everything, especially his writing, so I find him really inspiring. Overall, he's just awesome, and he inspires me. Other people may not understand, but he was the first person I thought of.

Heather Davis said...

One of my fave teachers was Mrs. Blankenship, who I had from 4th to 6th grade. She encouraged me to write stories and plays and held reading contests. Loved her!

TinaFerraro said...

I will be forever grateful to the second grade teacher who called my mother to tell her I showed great promise in creative writing, and then had me read my stories to the class!

donnas said...

Sounds like it was a pretty cool class. One of my favorite was a history teacher in HS. Really knew how to make the class interesting and not boring like it very well could have been.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Super-Nerd said...

One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Myers. She was the drama teacher at my elementary school and she was the first person to introduce my little second-grade self to Shakespeare. She instilled a love of the Bard and his marvelous plays in me that has continued to grow. She encouraged me in my pursuit of Shakespeare, and we put together numerous plays, getting the rest of the school involved. I was able to talk to my mom, another Shakespeare lover, about my favorite parts and she (both my mother and my teacher) helped to explain parts that I didn't understand as well as to really feel the words as I said them. She was an inspiration, full of life and bubbly energy that was contagious and made me want to learn more.

Anonymous said...

I think one of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Oldfield. She was just so funny, one minute she would be telling the class to behave and the next she would be like "You know what, forget about the test today, we can do a fun project as a closer to the chapter instead." She was always looking for fun stories to read to us and told us to be as creative as we wanted with our essays and projects as long as they covered the topic. One day we even got to watch the Twilight Zone! Even though her teaching style was pretty laid back, I still learned a lot.


sunnynikki said...

My favorite teacher was one of my college professors and also my mentor. His name is Clyde and as a somewhat lost student I looked up to him for a lot. He taught me everything from canoeing to kayaking to rock climbing and knot tying. In addition to all these amazing skills he also taught me a lot about being a good person and how to treat other people in times of difficulty. I still look up to him and enjoy the times when I make it back to my alma mater to have a quick lunch and catch up.

1110cg said...

I liked my middle school teachers

Cara King said...

I'll have to say my third-grade teacher, Mr. Dewey. He just loved teaching, and loved all of us. He would give us nicknames: I was carrot-cake, or Caracas, or puddin-head. :-) And for a shy little girl who generally didn't feel that people noticed her, I was so happy when random folks started using some of those names for me. :-)

Mr. Dewey got us excited about all sorts of things, including whales! And he read almost every one of the Little House books to us in class...

Senator said...

Aww that such an endearing story, thanks for sharing Tera! :)

rebecca said...

My "gifted and talented" (enrichment class) teacher in elementary school, Mrs. Davis, always inspired us to do and be more. I remember we even put on a play that I wrote (for an audience and everything!) back in third grade. It was an adaptation of a scene from one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, which I was completely obsessed with.