We all know that teachers are a grand source of inspiration. After all, if you yourself can’t look back and think of a teacher that left their stamp on your growing brain, then at least there are plenty of movies you can glean that experience from (I’m looking at you Mr. Holland’s Opus/Dangerous Minds/Stand and Deliver). I have been fortunate to have been taught by some wonderful educators throughout my school years, but there is one in particular that stands out in my mind, Mr. Barniskis. Through his 10th grade American Lit class he exposed my young mind to the likes of JD Salinger, Dalton Trumbo and Ken Kesey… and he was hot.
Now, I know that sounds terrible, but let me explain! Yes, he was one of the young teachers who in his late 20s was single, tall, dark and handsome with adorable plastic framed glasses, but what made me fall head-over-heels in puppy love with him was how he was so different from the boys my age. Up to that point in my life as a shy, chubby, frizzy haired, 15-year-old girl the only males I’d had as an example to the gender that I wasn’t related to all seemed either smelly, immature, oblivious, mean, or a combination of the four. Mr. B though, he was, like, sooooooo mature. He was an avid bibliophile (obviously), knew fancy smart people words I’d never heard before (like bibliophile) and listened to Bob Dylan (which seemed way more profound than Smash Mouth, no offense). Still, even at that age, I remember thinking that the best thing about him was how he was able to look beyond my awkward exterior and see that I was going to probably turn out to be a capable adult woman one day, which made me feel good my future and about myself.
Plus we got to watch Star Wars for class one week, which was totally awesome.
A couple of summers after I had graduated high school, I was still living in Oregon and I thought I caught a glimpse of Mr. B perusing the aisles of Powell’s Books in downtown Portland one afternoon. I wanted to tell him what his class meant to me, and what a great teacher I thought he was, but before I could collect myself he was gone from sight. Disappointed and possibly drunk off watching too many twee foreign films, I decided to post both in print and online one of those “missed connections” type ads in the local alternative news paper basically stating what I said above. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I was surprised at the immediate feedback I received from complete strangers telling me how great they thought it was that there were still youths out there that were affected by and thankful for the teachers that influenced them. It was all very heartwarming and such, but when I saw his name in my inbox, the warming changed to skipping. Turned out that somebody Mr. B knew had seen the ad and brought his attention to it. He let me know that the man I saw wasn’t him because now he lived in Minnesota (but floated the theory it may have been his brother who still lived locally), that he did indeed remember me as a “bright spot in a class full of dullards” and that he was thankful for the kind words. Swoon.
It’s been several years since that happened, and it’s a bit strange to think I’m approaching the age that Mr. B probably was when fate (or my guidance councilor) first thrust me into his classroom sophomore year. I haven’t Googled him because I don’t want to feel stalker-y, but I imagine that his life has changed more than a bit in that time, too. If I could send out that “missed connection” ad today, it would probably say much of the same as it did before, but I would also have to tell him thank you, for inspiring me to look for a man with similar qualities; intelligence, eloquence, and has the maturity to look beyond my outer shell and see me as capable adult woman.
Maybe not, it sounds a bit creepy.
by Erin Chase