I've written briefly about this in the past, but in light of getting some nice notes, emails, gifts and shout-outs on Twitter from several students and parents, I thought I'd share a little something about a teacher I appreciated, who quite literally altered the course of my life for the better, and probably as much as anyone in my life, made me into the person and teacher that I am today.
Some backstory first...I grew up pretty poor...not homeless poor, but moved every 6 months poor... Went to 5 different elementary schools poor. My mom loved me and thought I was the smartest thing ever, but that's about all I had going for me, I was fairly smart and I was tough, willing to take or give a punch as needed.
By the time I got to high school, I wasn't really sure what I intended to do with my life. I worked pretty hard during summers, and starting the second I turned 16, I worked 30-40 hours a week at Publix (which I loved and still love). I had done some building plans for my uncle, who was a contractor, so I thought, maybe I could be an architect. And of course, the one constant my whole life has been books...I read even more than that I do now, thousands of pages a week generally.
As high school started to wrap up, I had good grades, I had good test scores, but guidance depts then aren't what they are now, and as a kid from the wrong side of the tracks with no real advocates, college was sort of a pipe dream. I delayed enlisted in the Navy, but had a medical condition that stopped that from happening. So there I was, 18 years old, 2nd in my class of 283 and no real plans in April of my senior year.
Being that rank in my class, there was an automatic scholarship at the local community college. Because really, most kids 2nd in their class aren't going to community college, they are rocking it out at a university at the least, at some nice private school perhaps. At least, the middle and upper class kids around me were. That wasn't really in the cards for me, for both financial and family reasons. So off to Lake Sumter Community College, or as we called it, Lake-Dumpster or Harvard by the Highway. My declared majors were Architecture and Creative Writing.
In my first semester there (I think), I took Introduction to General Chemistry, also known as Baby Chem. It was in that course that I was taking with a few high school acquaintances of mine, that I first met Edmund Cameron.
Ed Cameron was almost out of place there...he wore a white dress shirt and a tie every day. He sort of looked like Bernie Sanders does now. And he was brutal, I still repeat his line from the first day of class "You are responsible for everything I discuss in class, anything in the book, and anything else I can think of". He was ruthlessly sarcastic in the way only a college prof can really get away with. Somewhere in the 2nd week or so of class I had my (at the time) trademark Anthrax hat on. He said to me "Anthrax...do you know what the heck anthrax is?" My response was "they rock" with devil horns thrown up. He never called me anything but Anthrax from that point forward...he referred to me to his co-workers as Anthrax. The only reason that I know he knew my name is that my grades got posted.
And by grades, I mean a lot of grades...I took 6 total classes with him, because he wasn't just a chemistry teacher, he also taught Western Civ classes. I took 4 Chem classes with him, both Western Civs, and then I worked as his lab assistant for a year while I took the Physics and such necessary to switch my major to Chemistry before I transferred to university. Ed Cameron was an old school, hardline teacher that believe in you knowing the content backwards, forwards and on the z-axis as well. I made Bs in General Chem I and II and he still let me believe I was the best. He was never buddy-buddy with me, though we were both "adults" (yeah right), but he gave rip, which was more than I could say for most of the males in my life up to that point. When he posted a headline from the newspaper that said "Anthrax spotted in North Dakota", I got the message, I mattered to him, and that mattered more than I can say. Heck, I'm tearing up a bit right now as I type this...
Folks that know me understand that Chemistry isn't my only passion, if I could say it was really a passion at all. I love History too, but I can't say it is my passion. Outside of God and Family, my passion is teaching, my passion is being someone important in a young person's life, of being that person that they can just sit in the room and talk about nothing, but knowing that they ARE WANTED THERE, that they aren't a burden, but they are the whole reason for me teaching.
Ed Cameron, I'm sorry my life took me away and you never knew I became a teacher...a teacher of Chemistry, maybe one day of History as well. I don't want to be you, but I could sure do worse than that...I want to reflect well on you, and to be half of what you were to me to a few kids. Thanks...