Growing up, not everyone is fortunate enough to encounter teachers that have a significant influence. I’m fortunate enough to have had several. I’d have to place my high school biology teacher at the top of the list. Mr. R. was the first person to teach me biology as a specific discipline rather than just as part of a general science curriculum.
Mr. R. was a superb teacher of general biology, but his own interest centered heavily on ecology and environmental science. One of our exercises was to lay out a meter square plot in a field adjacent to the school and identify everything, including both plants and animals, found within the plot. We took lots of field trips to examples of New England ecosystems, some of which have become much beloved by me (quaking bog, anyone?). He introduced me to a lot of ecological terminology (ecotone, niche, succession) that I use to this day. More than any other single individual, Mr. R. influenced me to become a biologist.
On my first visit home after completing my doctorate, my parents threw a small reception for me. Mr. R. was, of course, on the guest list. I remember him beaming through the entire event, and me feeling pleased that he was so obviously proud of my accomplishment.
Mr. R’s funeral was today. I learned only yesterday that he had recently passed after a brief illness. I owe so much to his guidance and mentorship. In his honor, I am contacting a couple of other teachers to tell them what they meant to me. Goodbye, Mr. R., and thanks.