Wednesday, January 06, 2010

So Long, Mr. Wood

There are teachers and then there are Teachers.

Quentin Wood, "Mr. Wood" or "Woody" to us kids, was one of the latter. He was born to teach and and it was a joy to watch him do so at Lakewood High School. Mr. Wood passed away last week at the age of 66 from liver cancer. Soon after, my Facebook page filled up with sad updates from my former classmates that all read the same: "I loved him!"

So, remember how in high school, we were all trying so hard to be cool but having no idea how to pull it off? Well, Woody was naturally cool and we admired him for this. Despite his wacky, gregarious nature, he never wavered from his suit-and-tie get-up, no matter what. This alone made him stand out at the beachy, suburban high school. Looking back now, it makes perfect sense. Woody was a Professional, through and through.

In addition to his fantastic style, what made Woody so beloved is that he taught with great humor. You wanted to hear what he had to say in class, in case you missed a great line. Mouthy dumb asses stood no chance whatsoever, he simply shamed them into silence. He also had a hipster presence when heading down the hallways of LHS. Because he was a smoker off-campus, he chewed gum a lot at work. I picture him in my mind, swaggering across campus like he owned the place and chewing gum like some distracted artist.

In truth, Mr. Wood was funnier and cooler than any of us could ever hope to be in our impending adulthoods...and we knew it.

At the very core of Woody's teaching ability was a deep love for his students. He genuinely enjoyed teasing us, challenging our minds and making faces behind our backs. (See photo.) I don't know where he got the patience but he pulled it off - class after class, school after school, year after year. A write-up in our hometown paper, Press-Telegram, included quotes from people describing him as a "true educator", "zany" and "just brilliant" at reaching students. All true.

As a side note, Woody was also a customer of my father's (he sold insurance) and they would occasionally get drunk together. In my mind, this gave Dad a sort of Rat Pack cool factor he did not previously possess. Both men were cut from the same cloth (although Woody's was much dressier) so I can only imagine their adventures ...

I felt compelled to write this up because I don't believe that day-to-day heroes like Quentin Wood should pass through this life without a big, fat "Huzzah!" He was a wonderful teacher, a delightful human being and, as my dad said, "A helluva nice guy." We were all better for having known him, his students especially.

So long, Mr. Wood. I hope they don't stop you for a hallway pass on your way up to the Principal's Office in the Sky ....

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Heather, this was a beautiful and poignant tribute to this extraordinary educator, mentor, leader,friend. I couldn't have said it better. Your voice, like Woodys' life, inspires. Thanks my friend. Laura Martin

hotdrwife said...

What a wonderful tribute, H!

sissydre said...

Heather ~ great words from our HS days ~ Mr. Woods was funny ~ I talked with Polly Frank about his passing yesterday we had a laugh or two ~ pointed her to your site ~ enjoyed the pic's as well. Sad and moving on to a higher place to watch us all <3

quirkychick said...

Love the photos - he looks like a very hip force of nature.

So sad for the loss of him, but it sounds like he was someone who lived zestfully the whole time he was here.

How lucky you all were to have a teacher who taught not only a subject, but also role modeled livng a life.

What did he teach?

ClizBiz said...

Mr. Wood taught social studies although I had him the Yearbook class, where he taught me a lot about layout and publishing.

Kizzle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Bertini said...

What a great bio, and what a great blog. I should give up running my Denver farmers market and enjoy life to the fullest as this author does.

ClizBiz said...

Thanks for stopping by, James! I'll come say hi at the next Farmer's Market - great thing you and your wife have going there. The community needs it.

BlogInSong said...

This was the perfect way to start my day. He sounds amazing. In some ways people like that are the glue that keep old friends in contact. You all have this amazing memory in common with Mr. Wood. Thanks for the added kick to my job searching day!

Anonymous said...

So nice to read and hear about the way my Uncle was thought of by his students. Yes, indeed he was funny, kind, thoughtful and generous. He has left a lasting mark on everyone his has touched.

Jeff Wood

ClizBiz said...

So glad you stopped by, Jeff. Yes, your uncle was special. We were so lucky to have him around.

Heidi's heart said...

It is so important to acknowledge the people who have touched our lives. A beautiful tribute. You should send this to his family.

ClizBiz said...

Thanks, Heidi. Couldn't agree more. And yes, his family has stopped by - see the note from his nephew, Jeff, above.

Dara Vaughn said...

Point on...this was a great tribute. I was not fortunate enough to have had him as a "scheduled" teacher but every once in a while I would ditch my boring classes and sit in on his. He really lifted spirits and gave everyone a reason to smile. Some of my best high school memories. He was a pleasure to know and he will be missed dearly.

ClizBiz said...

Wow! That must be the ultimate compliment for a teacher, to have a student escape their boring class and sneak into yours. Thanks for this tidbit, Dara. We were lucky to have him.