During my times in Room 16 at St. Marys Memorial High School, the original Memorial off West South Street and not the palatial Memorial just off Route 66 on the city’s northern edge, there were a few years when I taught English both to sophomores and juniors.
One of the either lucky or unlucky young folks, and I’d be naïve if I thought that every single student who sat before me years ago enjoyed the experience, who got a double dose of yours truly during his sophomore and junior years was Doug Spencer, who recently announced his intention to run on the Republican side to continue in his role as an Auglaize County commissioner, a job he first assumed on Jan. 1, 2007.
While, admittedly, it’s been years since I’ve paid a whole lot of attention to the political realm, especially those politicians outside my own Allen County, I’m certain that Doug has approached his job and executed its duties with every ounce of commitment and passion he possesses.
Although I will point out that the high school sophomore and junior version of the 46-year-old Spencer demonstrated great enthusiasm for the lessons I taught and the assignments I placed before him, he wasn’t by far my most gifted student, and, I think, Doug would be the first to agree with that recollection.
Don’t get me wrong. While Doug was certainly a good student, there were others I remember who would be my Mount Rushmore figures when it came to vocabulary acquisition, knowledge of grammar and punctuation, reading comprehension and compositional proficiency.
However, if I were to create my Mount Rushmore of former students who exhibited congeniality, helpfulness and an appreciation for both his fellow students and his teachers, Spencer’s visage would be the first one I’d chisel.
Following Doug’s 1993 graduation from Bowling Green, armed with his teaching degree, he returned to me, this time as a teaching colleague. It was then I became aware in his government classes of his deft touch with students and his willingness to use different paths to achieve his classroom goals.
To be honest, while younger teachers often make mistakes, they are so vital in schools for their willingness to try new techniques that the more entrenched faculty members (euphemism for old fogeys) often eschew.
In addition to his government classes, he was also asked to resurrect a course on television media that hadn’t been in the curriculum for more than a decade. It was Doug who redeveloped it and injected his own brand of innovation and enthusiasm to assignments which often fell outside the walls of a traditional classroom.
Although I’ve seen Doug a few times since my retirement from education in 2005, it had been quite some time since I’d spoken to him before he called me in February.
After exchanging some small talk and receiving a bit of an update on Doug’s life with his wife, Andrea, and their three teen-agers, Howie, Lucy and Charley, which is almost impossible for me to fathom, my former two-year English letterman got around to the real purpose of his call. He wanted my editorial input on a press release he’d written for his campaign. I told Doug that I would be as happy to help the 46-year-old version of him as I was the 15- and 16-year-old version.
He joked about the fact that, thanks to the technologies that weren’t in place when he was in my class, when he sent the Microsoft Word attachment of his release, he wouldn’t have to look at all my red corrections and explanations when I assessed his written effort.
When I did the actual work on the release, I was so pleased that perhaps my work with the teen-ager he once was had borne some fruit. From a content standpoint, I thought the six-paragraph release was nearly perfect, especially when he stressed his accomplishments he listed weren’t his alone but a collaborative effort with others. From a mechanical point of view, I only had to tidy up a bit of comma punctuation, tighten an occasional construction and un-dangle a lone modifier.
After I sent the writing back, the gracious man that used to be the boy in the fourth row, third seat, sent a text in self-deprecating fashion that really good folks who don’t take themselves as seriously as they do the concerns of others, joked, “With your changes, you made me sound so good, even I’d vote for me!”
Well Doug, a lot of others that have come to appreciate what you’ve brought to your role in government, I’m sure, will join you come primary election day on May 8. Oh, and by the way, thank you, Commissioner Spencer, for making an old English teacher still with a few lessons to teach feel needed again.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.