Thanks to the teachers who taught at Rincon High I got a great education. This was back in the Age of Aquarius, back when the moon was in the Seventh House, Mr. Varney was guiding the truants straight to the dean of boys and Jupiter was aligned with Mars.
So I was pleased when the Rincon Ranger Foundation invited me to speak at today’s breakfast at which four retired teachers are being honored by admitting them to the Rincon Hall of Fame. I always thought Rincon’s “Hall of Fame” was the stall in the boys room on the first floor. The names inscribed there certainly will be long remembered. I just want to make it clear that the drawing of a certain teacher with an unusual anatomical feature was not my handiwork.
It’s always a treat to go back to your old school to find that teacher who made a difference in your life and thank him for not sexting some Lolita, running off to Mexico and ending up on the nightly news. Instead your teacher told you to shut your cake hole, pull up your bell bottoms and do your work.
Your teacher will be delighted to see you made something of yourself and that you’re out of prison.
Also while you’re primed for your emotional “To Sir With Love” moment, old Mr. Chips will have a grand time faking remembering you out of the blur of 12,000 students he taught each semester.
Thank the teachers who cheered you on.
“Son, you may be a colossal dork with a GPA so low it’s invisible to the naked eye and you need enough acne medication to plaster a rhino — but listen, you’ll be fine, son. I believe in you. Your fly’s down. You’re late for home ec.”
The kids residing on the outer planets needed motivational voodoo.
I’m talking about my friends of course. Not me. With my “Fat Albert” lunchbox and “Funky Winkerbean” pocket protector I was “Saturday Morning Breakfast Club” cool.
Here are this year’s four:
Lee Carey was Rincon’s athletic director ever since Geronimo was cut from the team from stealing cattle. He handed out the towels and the kind of advice your parents would give you — only you’d listen because he wasn’t them. He turned jocks into athletes and athletes into gentlemen and scholars. As dean of boys, he was so fond of friendly but firm discipline he recently wrote the foreword to “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
Phil Varney taught English for so long he taught “Canterbury Tales” as contemporary fiction. He still corrects my grammar. Us are grateful such guardians of our mother tongue look out for we people.
Want to have fun? Ask him about “Catcher in the Rye” and set your watch.
At this point I want to say it wasn’t me who lifted his Volkswagen up and set it down on the sidewalk. It was probably that jerk who vandalized the boys room.
Grace Wiggins coached girls volleyball and softball and was chairwoman of the PE department. For those of you who were in choir and drama, “PE” stands for physical education. The jerk who suggested this one-time nominee for “Teacher of the Year” was the inspiration for the girls’ PE teacher in “Porky’s” and probably was the same jerk who attempted to drill a peephole and electrocuted himself. I told the school nurse it was a snakebite.
Blessed with a Knute Rockne face, Andy Rumic coached football at Rincon before cleats were invented by Attila the Hun.
Ask him why he loved Rincon and his answer is always the same: For the amazing pay and access to Rincon’s awesome faculty lounge, which featured K-rations, freshly brewed coffee strained through Wiggins’ gym socks and a secret entrance to the dean of boys’ torture chamber.
Mr. Rumic taught also driver’s ed. Every day he spooled up “Wheels of Agony” and “Red Asphalt” on his 16 mm movie projector while we drove our clunky bumper-car simulators in a dark foreshadowing of “Grand Theft Auto” 40 years later.
In the era of “The Six Million Dollar Man” we were taught by a $6 million faculty that in 2013 is still owed roughly, oh, I’d say, $6 million in back wages. The least we can do today is pick up the tab for breakfast, thank our educators who were missionaries at work in the fields of the Lord and return the gym towels we stole.
They devoted their lives to molding us into good citizens.
I hope this morning they will look out upon a motley sea of grateful graduates and ask themselves, “What was I thinking? This crowd looks like the waiting room at La Frontera. And these are the people who actually did their homework and showed up for class?”
Every day I look at my fellow alums and think, “This is what Mr. Kotter had to work with in ‘Room 222’?” Miracle workers. Our teachers were miracle workers. Bless all of them.