Friday, November 06, 2009

Da Count - Teachers

When it came time to write the dedication for Campus Chills, I started thinking about the theme of the book. All of the stories took place on campuses across Canada. Sure, they are horror stories; wonderfully written chilling tales all centered around university and college campuses.

And what's one thing that all campuses have in common?

They are places of learning -- institutes with a primary goal of educating.

It made me think about the teachers I had throughout my life and how fortunate I have been to learn under them. Yes, I know, everyone can likely easily think about that one horrible teacher who made their life miserable for a short period of time (like Harry Potter's Professor Snape)

But I have to say that I have been extremely fortunate to be able to look back at how many wonderful, memorable and top notch teachers I have had over the years. As far back as grade school, through high school and through to my university years, I'm very lucky to have had so many great teachers. Too many to name, but these teachers all left impressions on me, allowed me to learn new things and helped shape my development and life -- and for that I'm forever grateful.

I suppose I'm lucky to be working at an academic institution right now and I still get to work alongside some really incredible faculty members at McMaster. It has been an endless stream of fortuitous learning for me virtually my whole life. And I have teachers, instructors and educators to thank for it.

And though I had many great teachers, one in particular stands in my mind as the type of teacher who transcended the learning process. Jim Turcott, who taught Math and Physics at Levack District High School was a passionate and dedicated instructor.

Though I hated and struggled with math, I loved going to Mr Turcott's classes (he was also known as Dr. T since he also DJ'd) -- Jim used his passion for math and physics creatively and made the learning process fun. Having been active in the student council and in "stage shows" at LDHS, I got a chance to work more closely with Dr. T. whom I eventually began to call Jim after I graduated from LDHS. I worked for him for many years in his DJ business and learned a great many things about the art of DJing (this was back in the day of cassette tapes -- long before mp3's existed -- so cuing up a show and responding to ad hoc requests created quite a bit of work -- intense and challenging, but fun work).

Jim and I often bickered about music -- he was passionate about that, too. Me being a teenage fan of Rush, I often tried talking him into playing their music at our school dances. He told me that while they were talented musicians, you just couldn't dance to their music. I wouldn't take no for an answer and kept pushing and pushing in my bullheaded way. Jim was right. With the exception of some of their ballads, for the most-part, this brilliant rock trio has created a wealth of music, most of which simply doesn't work well on the dance floor. I only realized that many years later, and, of course, never admitted that to him.

As I mentioned, Jim transcended teaching. He became not just the guy who taught me math, physics and certain DJing skills. He also became a mentor and a friend and taught me a lot about life.

I recently started reading Gary Vaynerchuk's book CRUSH IT which explores how he turned his life-long passion into an incredible success story. Gary's story is wonderful and his passion leaps off the page immediately.

But one interesting thing is, though Gary does a wonderful job nailing the concept that doing what you're MOST passionate about is the key to success, it's actually something that Jim taught me several decades ago just through the way he lived his life. It's one of those basic elements that makes every single day a TGIT (Thank God It's Today) rather than a TGIF (Thank God It's Friday) sort of day. Reading Gary's book reminds me about that passion that Jim demonstrated every day, whether it was in the classroom, behind the DJ station or just hanging out with his friends and colleagues.

In any case, here is the dedication for CAMPUS CHILLS:

To all of the teachers, instructors and educators
who inspire, coach and nurture young minds

Particularly to Jim Turcott

Teacher, mentor, friend 1951 - 2008

Thanks for continuing to inspire, me Jim. And thanks to so many of the teachers out there who are passionate about what they do and help continue to inspire us all . . .


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