Nils History Part 3: My Favorite Teacher

Last week I was at the Rasmusson Family Reunion so I didn’t take the time to write in my history section here. I’ll attempt two posts this time. Last week’s question:

Did you have a favorite teacher?

Of course, the snide part of me wants to simply answer “Yes.” but I presume the question should have read “Who was your favorite teacher? Why?” So here goes.

It was my Junior or Senior year. Can’t remember which but I think it was my Senior year in high school. 1995-1996. I had always done well in English. Unlike Math, English comes fairly naturally to me. I’m not guru but it’s easier for me than it is for some. I found myself sitting in the room of Mr. Cangelosi. We called him Mr. Cange. As most students of his will tell you, he’s not an easy teacher but he’s a great teacher. At the time (15 years ago) he was a goin’ grey haired, middle aged guy, probably in his early 40’s. I scoured the web for a photo of him just now but came up with nothing.

In short, I loved what Mr. Cange did. He took it upon himself to expose students to culture. He was strict about grammar and encouraged quality writing by giving quality feedback. He read through each of our assignments meticulously and helped us to improve where we needed improving. Most of all, he brought different viewpoints into our lives. I remember reading books like Siddhartha, which was an eye-opening introduction into a Buddhist way of thinking for me. We read other books that just made me realize that there’s a lot more to life than what little I had experienced. Our assignments helped us to see things from a different perspective and to appreciate what we had. I honestly can’t remember many details, I just remember that he opened my eyes and a good teach should do that. To cause others to be introspective and to change as a result is a gift. He has that gift.

Oh yeah, I also remember that we weren’t allowed to use the word “thing” in his class. It forced us to always use a more descriptive or appropriate word. From then on, I made it a point to avoid the “T word” in any papers I submitted. I don’t know that I was perfect at it but I was certainly conscientious of it. So thanks, Mr. Tom Cangelosi. You were a great teacher and, if you’re still teaching today, I’m guessing you still are.

What I’ve learned about effective instructors:

  • An effective instructor causes students to internalize what is being taught
  • They help others to fully understand what is being taught by seeing it through the proper perspective
  • They provide good feedback. Students can’t learn if they don’t know what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.
  • They give students to room. Hitler was an effective leader (more of a persuader, really) but not an effective instructor. Students need to grow individually and come to their own conclusions.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully I can adapt some of what Mr. Cange taught me into my life and my children’s lives.

Rock on,

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