Posted in Miscellaneous

Honoring a Wide-Reaching Teacher

This post is almost a continuation of my last post. Today I would like to tell you about a teacher who affected my life very deeply, although I never met him.

My grandfather, Vere Johnson, grew up in the farming community of Beaver Dam in Northern Utah. On his first day of school in the local one-room schoolhouse, he decided to get up and explore the class, to the annoyance of his strict school teacher. She sent him straight back to his seat and then proceeded to smack his head against his desk, causing his lower lip to swell. He thought to himself, “If this is what school is all about, I will have nothing to do with it.”

Vere lived true to his promise. By the time he reached third grade, he still faithfully attended school due to his mother’s orders, but he had never learned to read or do any math. That’s when the school was fortunate enough to get a new teacher, Ross Coombs. This new teacher watched Vere in class and called Vere’s mother in for a conference. Mr. Coombs told her that he didn’t know why Vere wasn’t learning anything, considering, in his own words, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with [Vere]– mentally.” He gave her a composition notebook full of history writings and told her to read it to Vere every night and come back in a week. When Vere came back, he had the whole notebook memorized.

After this experience, Vere put his efforts into his schoolwork. In a short time, he not only caught up to his classmates but became one of the top students in his school. During World War II, he put himself through dental school and met his wife while getting his degree. He and his wife later had eight children, all of whom hold college degrees and have encouraged their children to get as much education as possible.

Let’s just play in the world of “what could have been.” If Ross Coombs had never given my grandfather a second chance, it is very possible that Grandpa Johnson would have become an illiterate farmer after suffering through all those years of schooling. He never would have met my grandmother, and I would not exist. And even if, by some miracle, my grandparents had still met and gotten married (although I can’t see my grandmother not marrying a college graduate, considering all the work she put into her education), it is also very possible that my father would also have placed a low value on his education and never discovered his love for chemistry. Thank goodness for Ross Coombs and his faith in my grandfather.

Who motivates you in your pursuit of more education? Is it you? Have your parents helped push you in the right direction? Have you had amazing teachers that had faith in you? I would love to hear your stories!

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