Remember those who impacted your life in positive way

Oct. 7, 2010 at 5:07 a.m.

By Lane Johnson

By Lane Johnson

A friend made a comment the other day that caught my attention. He said, "No matter how old we get, everyone can remember at least three teachers in their life who left such a strong impression that, if asked, you could name them without hesitating." He was right. Three names immediately came to mind. Mrs. Brophy, Brother Klein and Don Houts.

Mrs. Brophy was one of those teachers you feared, respected and loved, all at the same time. She was British and ruled her fourth-grade classroom with all the dignity, discipline and demand for respect that fits the picture of a proper English lady. She was always in control and punished with a ruler across the open palm of your outstretched hand. If you pulled away too soon and made her miss, Mrs. Brophy doubled the allotted blows. But there was a twinkle in her eye through which you could almost see the playful little girl inside, held at bay by adulthood, watching and waiting for an opportunity to slip through her professional façade and burst into mischief.

One day, I was caught whispering to a classmate instead of paying attention. She hurled a blackboard eraser across the room with dead aim as it bounced off my skull leaving me in a cloud of white dust. That was the day my buddies designated me "Chalk", a nickname that followed me for years. Mrs. Brophy was hard on us, but you knew she loved you. While I feared her discipline and punishments, I never felt safer than in her presence.

Brother Klein was a soft-spoken, Christian Brother priest. While short in stature, he stood tall in his faith and professional confidence as a high school math teacher. He made me into an honors math student. It's the only subject I ever excelled. Brother Klein had a way of anticipating the unexpected. Every time the chalk broke while working problems on the board, he would immediately look up instead of following the path of the falling chalk. Every time. Without fail. One day, we asked him about this. He talked of how matter is made up of molecules that are always in random motion. If all of the molecules making up that piece of chalk happened to be moving in the same direction at the precise moment the chalk broke, and that direction was up instead of down,

the broken piece would rise to the ceiling instead of falling to the floor. We sat speechless for a moment trying to figure out if he was serious or just pulling our leg.

Brother Klein broke the silence; "It's mathematically possible."

One student challenged him, "What are the chances that all of those thousands of molecules would ever be moving in the same direction at the same time?"

"Almost no chance." He responded. "But it is possible, and if it actually happens, what are the chances it would happen again in my lifetime? I don't want to be looking down instead of up and miss it."

Thanks to Brother Klein, I've never been surprised by surprises.

Then there was my graduate school advisor, Dr. Don C. Houts. He never taught me anything. Except how to expect more out of myself than I ever dreamed possible. Because of him, my criteria for self-evaluation became less critical, kinder and much fairer. He never came right out and said these things. He just lived it and modeled himself in such a way that I was invited to consider the same. Every now and then I forget what he mentored . . . until I remember my days with him. Like right now.

What a delight to reminisce about those benchmark people who have shaped the way I think, and molded the way I behave. I encourage each of you, if you haven't done this lately, to take a moment, right now, and recall at least three teachers who have impacted your life in positive ways. Their names come immediately don't they? Follow their footprints back into your history. It's a stroll that will remind you of what is really important. Then ask yourself, "I wonder if anyone remembers me in that way?" If not, it's still mathematically possible.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at



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