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 ....