In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I offer up an encore of this 2011 blog post.
This weekend, I found a tiny square photograph at my mom's house. It shows me and Mr. Pepper, my third and fourth grade teacher, in the auditorium of my grade school. The photo is small, but Mr. Pepper's influence on my life wasn't.
There are other faces I recognize in the picture, but none of them is as meaningful to me at Mr. Pepper's.
Jack Pepper was my third grade teacher and to the best of my knowledge, everyone in my class adored him. He was friendly but firm. And he knew us and he knew what made us tick and what motivated us. And he knew when each of us needed a little discreet extra help.
At the end of the year we were sad. Not only because we were wrapping up our year with him but because, if I remember correctly, he was leaving our school, too. On our final report cards we got next year's teacher assignment. I don't remember who it was, but it wasn't Mr. Pepper.
Or so we thought. Our assigned teacher didn't appear on the first day of school. Instead, Jack Pepper was back at P.S. 199. And even better, he was assigned to our class!
That year, we took part in a dance festival in the schoolyard and Mr. Pepper spent much of the year taking us to the gym where we learned to do the Charleston to an awful 1970s update of a vintage tune.
We made our own class magazine. I made a speech when we planted a tree on Arbor Day. I recited the Gettysburg Address, donning a Lincoln-sized hat, onstage during a school production. And when the year was over, we were once again sad.
But I got to see Mr. Pepper again a few weeks later when he showed up at our house. It was around my birthday, if not actually on the day, and tucked under his arm was a copy of The Beatles' "Yesterday and Today."
Mr. Pepper knew I was a blossoming Beatles freak. And he knew which records I did and didn't have.
Mr. Pepper was THAT teacher. I lost touch with him for years afterward and I regret it. In 2007, I stopped at P.S. 199 and a security guard told me she knew him. He'd returned to the school where he worked in an office that the Board of Education occupied there. But, she said, he had died a year or two before. (Note: I have since discovered that he died in 2004.)
I can't say exactly what Mr. Pepper taught me, because, I think, his influence was wide-ranging and profound. He taught us math and reading, certainly, but he also taught us kindness and diplomacy and, of course, how to do the Charleston, too.
I know that 35 years after I last saw him, I remember him fondly and I know with certainty that he was the best teacher I ever encountered.
My kids will never meet him in a classroom, but there are Mr. Peppers in classrooms all across the country who, this very minute, are having the same effect on children, and I hope my children get to meet at least one of them â€“ if not more â€“ on their journeys.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Sept. 30, 2016
Today, the city began accepting requests for proposals for developments on the Wisconsin Avenue site between 4th and 5th Streets that has long been a surface parking lot. I want to know what you'd like to see in this long-underutilized, high-profile Downtown space.
Published Sept. 30, 2016
While it's true that Bradley Tech High School, 700 S. 4th St., in Walker's Point has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent years, there have also been many positive developments there. See for yourself at Tuesday's open house, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Published Sept. 29, 2016
It's been four years since LEGO KidsFest has been to Milwaukee, and during that time, the LEGO craze has grown and grown. The event is back in town and we caught up with master model-builder Chris Steininger to find out what we can expect to find at KidsFest.
Published Sept. 27, 2016
Driving past, you might not really notice the changes at the Elite Sports Club-River Glen, 2001 W. Good Hope Rd., in Glendale, which was built as Le Club in 1972 and purchased by Elite in 2012. But on the inside, it seems that everything is changing.
Published Sept. 26, 2016
You know the old saying, "it takes a village." Well, that village is what's currently fueling the Milwaukee Public Museum's push to get its vast collections digitized and online. That and some funding from grants, too, of course.
Published Sept. 26, 2016
One of the oldest watering holes in the city, the White House, 2900 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is celebrating its 125th birthday on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 1-2 with drink specials, games, raffles, food and more, as well as a food drive for Hunger Task Force.
Published Sept. 22, 2016
There was a time when removing a building was a dramatic affair: buildings imploded with a boom or were pounded by a wrecking ball. These days, thankfully, there's a growing approach that seeks to keep as much waste out of landfills and reuse and recycle as much material as possible.
Published Sept. 21, 2016
Did you know Milwaukee Public Schools has what might be the largest group of public Montessori schools in the world? Now, led by school board member Tati Joseph, there's a push to add a new South Side dual-language program to that group.
Published Sept. 20, 2016
Even in a neighborhood full of vintage architecture, there's no mistaking it. The Italianate Cream City Brick building at 1704 N. 4th St. looks old. If the area has had a long, varied history (and it has), then Baasen House is perfectly at home here.
Published Sept. 18, 2016
There's no better way to get a peek inside Milwaukee's most interesting - and often most historic - sites, many of them typically off limits to the public, than Historic Milwaukee Inc.'s annual Doors Open Milwaukee event. Here are 10 must-see sites.