I recently read a blog written by one of my old classmates, Gillian Peta Stokes. With her permission, I share this ode to our senior English teacher with you:
In one lifetime we meet hundreds of people who will all impact on our lives in various ways, yet there are always those very special few that one remembers with fondness. Those special people with whom one would very much like to come in contact again, to show them what progress we have made, how we have drawn from their impact on our lives and used the magic they gave us.
Such was one Rod Kimble, raconteur, teacher extraordinaire, and friend, and advisor, part of my life for such a brief moment. He came into my world at the beginning of my last year of school as my English teacher. So he was present in my life for a scant few months, but his impact has lasted a lifetime. He was as rare and unique as an exotic butterfly to us. A class of twenty odd kids who hung on his every word, and who would have probably committed murder for him had he asked us to. He came to our small conservative right wing town, and in one brief school year, turned upside down all the norms that had been hammered into us over the preceding eleven years.
The first time I saw Dead Poet’s Society I remember thinking “Oh yes! I have had one of those in my life!” The feeling persisted throughout that they had based the storyline on my Mr. Kimble. I, too, (if I had known Walt Whitman back then) would gladly have shouted, “Oh Captain, my Captain.”
|Class of '77|
You see, he did that thing that was so rare and precious to us then—he treated us as equals, not as kids. He drew us into his world; spoke to us eye to eye. He made us co-conspirators against the establishment. He used to mock the holy cows of school, church and town to us. He taught us to confront our giants with confidence and quiet assurance. It seems he caught the spark, the essence of each of us as individuals.
He was droll, dry, witty, irreverent, and somewhat jaded by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He smoked cheroots in class, and couldn’t keep his tie up and collar buttoned for more than the first 15 / 20 minutes of the morning. He was short, balding, with beetling black eyebrows. He would gently mock and taunt us. If you went to his house, you could be offered a beer not a coke. There were a few occasions where he even let those of us who smoked (as did a lot of kids back then), smoke in his class. If the intercom sounded, he would stand on a chair under it and mock whoever was speaking. He flirted with the girls and talked man to man with the boys.
We adored him. Yet, he did not just take from us; he gave and gave, and he shared his joys and sorrows too. When his eldest daughter was killed in a horse riding accident (she was just a grade lower than us), he shared his grief and sorrow with us, his gratitude that we as one attended her funeral. When we bought him an expensive bonsai tree with all our pooled resources to help him in his grief, he cried again in front of us. He wasn’t perfect, anything but…a very flawed man indeed. But he taught us that is was actually OK to be flawed as long as you strived to be the best you could. I remember him quoting Kipling’s “IF” to us. His words on marriage/relationships have stayed with me forever:
“You see the mistake that people make is that that marriage consists of give and take! Well, they are wrong. Marriage consists of giving 100 percent by both parties, all of the time from the day you commit yourselves. And maybe, just maybe in giving 100 percent of yourself, you might in return get something back, but don’t count on it, just consider it a blessing if you do.”
I could enumerate his magic and all he gave us for absolute ages, but I need to explain to you on the site just why I am lauding this man. He loved his craft, the English language, with a passion that I have seldom met with since. He instilled in me (and others too I know), my lifelong passion for words, my love of poetry, Shakespeare and the classic writes.
I was a loner at school, a sickly child; I was never one of the “cool kids”. I was on average about 18 months younger than the rest, and while I could hold my own on an intellectual level, I wasn’t even a contender on the social level. He didn’t try to make me join in or conform but he encouraged me to show my uniqueness and be the best ‘me’ that I could possibly be. I don’t even know if he was ever aware of the impact he had on others or me.
When someone would read a poem or a piece of prose in a dead monotone, without emphasis or passion, I will never forget his histrionics! “No, no, no! You’re killing it and me” (with this putting his hands around his throat and pretending to choke himself!). “Think man think, this is a poem about life and death. Feel it! See it! Be it!”
Henry 1V part 1; The Crucible; The Great Gatsby; The Eagle; Pied Beauty; Ozymandius; The Hollow Men; La Belle Dame Sans Mercy; Ode to the West Wind; Journey of the Mag…these, and many more were some of the set pieces and poems that we had to learn, and that he made come to life for me. These too have remained among my favourites.
So, he is in part why I today can start to call myself a writer and a poet. He is a very large part of my journey to here and now. Without his influence, I would never have had the love of words—my own and others. He saw a spark and fanned it into a raging flame. Every learner/scholar should have at least one ‘Rod Kimble’ in his or her life; we owe that quality of education to them. I owe him a debt of lasting gratitude, and do thus pay homage and tribute to a truly great man.
If he were before me now, I, too, would stand up on my desk and shout for the world to hear:
“OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!”
Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners (2009), The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (published August 2011 by Tyndale House Publishers) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven (published 15 October 2013). She has recently signed a publishing contract with Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing) for Helsinki Sunrise, Passport to Romance series. Marion blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.