Were you fortunate enough to have one of those teachers who left a lasting impression on you? The teacher who taught you lessons you didn’t even realize they were teaching at the time? The one whose class you can picture yourself sitting in as if it were yesterday?
Coach Joe Ferrel was that teacher to me. He was my 9th grade history teacher at Monacan High School in 1986. He had a ready smile and was the teacher everyone wanted. He was the first person I remember interacting with who had a northern accent, which was interesting to this semi-southern girl. He was patient, incredibly patient toward the talkative girl who chose the seat in the back of the room. I wasn’t always the studious, organized, or prepared person I am today.
What I remember most about Coach Ferrel was his enthusiasm for whatever he was teaching us. He never seemed bored or annoyed by our questions. His enthusiasm encouraged us to be excited too. When he eagerly told us we’d get to watch the Challenger lift off during class, we were thrilled. You see, he also loved talking about space. Since he had an interest in space, it piqued a curiosity in space with me, and I wrote to NASA requesting information and pictures. I remember how proud I was to show him the letter and pictures I received. I also remember the devastation our class felt when we witnessed the Challenger explosion.
Coach Ferrel was also a fair man. He listened to his students. I remember an incident with another student where a new kid was being teased, and I took up for the new student. Unfortunately, I caused a disruption during class while doing so. Coach Ferrel sent me into the hall and followed after me a few seconds later. I was nervous. I’d never been sent out of class before. Coach was an imposing man but never used his size to intimidate. He calmly asked me what happened and I relayed what had transpired in the back of the room. He said I couldn’t disrupt class but that he was proud of me for taking up for the new student. I walked back in class holding my head up despite being sent out of class. He made me feel important.
Several years ago, I wrote Coach Ferrel a letter. In the letter I relayed my memories from his class and what he’d meant to me. I received a response from Coach Ferrel and his gratitude for having reached out—we became “friends” on Facebook.
I check Coach Ferrel’s Facebook page from time to time and recently learned his health is in decline. He was the teacher who always spoke about his wife and kids during class, and always with his ever present smile. I wish I could recall those stories now because I’m sure his kids would love to hear them. Unfortunately those memories have long since faded.
When my husband said I should start blogging for my website, I had no idea where to start. I searched the internet for ideas and the one that jumped out at me was, “Write about what got you started in this profession.” While Coach Ferrel may not have been who directly motivated me to become a teacher, he will remain the model for how I’d like my past and future students to see me—a teacher who is enthusiastic in how I teach, someone who is fair, and someone who pays attention and actually listens to her students. Coach Ferrel exhibited those qualities and more, which made him the BEST TEACHER EVER in my eyes.