Not long ago, I received word that my high school world history teacher, Mr. Bauer, passed away from lung cancer. If you attended Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL, you probably remember him playing Bob Dylan on his guitar or displaying student artwork that related to the historical concepts or economic terms learned in his classes. You also might remember his enthusiasm for all the accomplishments his students made in their art areas, attending every concert, theater production and art exhibit possible.
Most importantly, if you had Mr. Bauer as a teacher, you may recall him using the phrase “Do the Right Thing” on a regular basis. There was even a poster on his classroom wall emphasizing the mantra.
On the surface, one might call that phrase simple or trite, but I knew that in his heart that he wanted us to be honest, hard-working, and generous citizens. This mantra, as silly as it sounds, is one that I continue to live by well into my twenties.
Hearing about his passing shocked me, along with the rest of the Dreyfoos community, even as a senior in college.
In middle school, high school and college, I was angry with other professors and peers due to various personality conflicts and circumstances that were out of my control. As a result, I have been ruminating about such people for a long time. It has been difficult to let go of these toxic relationships.
However, this tragic event has reminded me that there are kind people in this world who want only what is best for you and will always let your light shine through. As a result, I want to dedicate this piece to all the teachers who went the extra mile to provide their students with the ability to succeed while providing life lessons along the way in Mr. Bauer’s honor.
There are many teachers who share Mr. Bauer's kind spirit and emphasis on "doing the right thing". At my middle school, Bak Middle School of the Arts, I had an Elements of Theatre and Costuming teacher named Mr. Pinkney who pushed the students he worked with. While he was a tough grader, Mr. Pinkney was someone who valued hard work, discipline and displaying good manners- often to the point where he singled out students for yawning with their mouths open. One memorable phrase that came out of this teacher's mouth was "It's a verb: SHOW Me." As a result, I learned the importance of accountability and that actions truly spoke louder than words.
Additionally, back at Dreyfoos, one of the most influential teachers in my career was Ms. Rigdon, who taught freshman and sophomore English. Not only did I get to hone my writing in her class, but I gained an enthusiasm for literature. However, having her as a teacher motivated me to really be myself. Ms. Rigdon was one of only a handful of teachers who was willing to open herself up to her students and showcase her quirky sense of humor and passion for the human condition.
Furthermore, at UF, I have encountered professors such as my voice teacher, Dr. Tony Offerle, and my directing teacher, Dr. David Young, who exhibit that same mindset of putting students first. Their passion to not only teach their respective fields of study, but for their students to perform at their best are praiseworthy to say the least.
Every time I seek help to improve a scene or project during Dr. Young's office hours, I am able to receive honest feedback with equal parts of encouragement. This gives me the confidence to keep moving forward with my project while taking the appropriate notes to refine it. Similarly, even outside of my lessons or studio, I am able to get the right nitpicks from Dr. Offerle when working on my voice technique since he is willing to look at videos of various exercises I regularly submit via text.
While I initially wrote this piece to honor Mr. Bauer, I was able to remind myself that there are amazing teachers who exhibit not only a passion for the subjects they teach but a desire to provide their students with a chance to step out of their comfort zone while striving to become the best person they can be.
Whenever you feel like the people you work with (teachers, bosses, supervisors) are just putting you down and not valuing your full potential, think of all the Mr. Bauer's, Dr. Offerle's, and Ms. Rigdon's in your lives. By reminding yourself of these positive individuals, and by thanking them for making a lasting impression, you outlook on life can truly change for the better.