Thank you Mr. Ryan…

Mr. Ryan was my favorite teacher in the whole world. He was my 4th Grade teacher for History and Homeroom. He was a portly Irishman with a booming voice and a contagious laugh that would reveal his crooked teeth molded by years of smoking his beloved pipe. Tweed jacket with elbow patches, thick glasses from another era, sweater vests and a penchant for bowties. He was as old school as they come. You could tell he was in a room because it smelt like dad. What exactly does a dad smell like? Well, in his case it was that mixture of Cavendish, Cologne, wool and a dash of hair gel. That’s not to say that is how my dad smelled or for that matter how I smell, but it’s that smell that is hard to describe, but it’s there and it feels oddly comforting.

This may certainly be unique to my childhood memories, but Mr. Ryan was my dad away from home. The man I looked up to and turned to when I heard him speak because he was always saying something interesting or new and exciting. He taught us about the Roman Empire, the Ottomans, the Vikings, the Mayas and so on and so forth, but his narration was the mark of a true teacher. He captivated his audience (with the few usual exceptions) and made me want to know more. I would ask him hundreds of questions and he never showed signs of impatience as he answered then one by one. He was strict and he would raise his voice and that was usually enough to settle us down, but there was a nurturing side to him that I never found again during my formative years.

This man taught us how to play Bridge and Chess in his spare time and only if you were interested. Quite a challenge given that we were fourth graders. My absolute favorite part of the day, though, was when we had homeroom and he would turn down the lights, have us close our eyes and read us The Hobbit. Listening to his deep voice travel across Middle Earth was an out of body experience. I was actually there with Bilbo Baggins. Mr. Ryan even had a Gandalf shaped candle that one of us would light whenever the old wizard made his appearances throughout the story. Surely it’s not for everyone, but I was hooked. No one has had such an impact on my reading preferences as Mr. Ryan he turned me on to anything Fantasy or History related although these days I can only sneak a couple of books into my routine here and there.

The Mr. Ryans of the world are cornerstones for raising dreamers, thinkers and inventors. It seems to me that they are dwindling in number and risk extinction. I hope my son will find a teacher other than mom and dad who helps to solidify his foundations and turns him onto a subject or makes him more inquisitive or gets him to tackle a project he is passionate about. I would give anything to ensure that outside of our home my son has role models like Mr. Ryan that fill his life with the thirst for knowledge and the joy of discovery.

Thank you Mr. Ryan and may you rest in peace.

4 thoughts on “Thank you Mr. Ryan…

  1. Vincent aka @CuteMon says:

    A beautiful post. I can count on one hand the number of effective memorable teachers I've had in my school years. The value of a good teacher can not be underestimated. They are entrusted with our children for more hours of the day than most working parents have the opportunity to spend with their own children.

    Rest in peace Mr. Ryan. Your service to countless generations of families will live on.

  2. WillBinMN says:

    Mr. Ryan rocks! I have heard many stories from friends and family members of teachers like him. People that truly love what they are doing and are set on teaching more than what is in the book. They may not be trying to change the world or someone's life, but they are doing it by teaching from the heart. I never really had a teacher like this and I am truly jealous. Thanks for sharing!

  3. A Daddy Blog says:

    What a well crafted testimonial to those men (and women) have made such a difference in our lives. So many of us fathers who made something of our lives have a Mr. Ryan to thank for their contribution to the men we became. I'm also blessed and honored to be related to one such man (now retired). I hope they aren't part of a dying bread. Education in this country is in crisis (or so says the meme), and I am one of many I suspect that have thought about chucking the big (well medium sized) bucks and step in to help. Anyway, great blog!

  4. c says:

    A special teacher is a rare & treasured find in life. They do carry on with you! I had a special teacher who was like a mother to me, she was killed in a awful car accident when I was a teen (after graduation) & I still miss her.

    Keep passing on the treasures he taught you, so he will live on in new childrens memories =)

    RIP Mr. Ryan!

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