Bài dự thi Hành Trình Nước Mỹ 6 – Thể loại: Bài viết.
Tác giả: PNP
I have been fortunate to meet many incredible people throughout my life. They often leave me in awe of their talents and extraordinary experiences. However, the person that impacts and inspires me the most has to be my high school Calculus teacher in Egg Harbor Township. His name is Mr. George Wilkinson. He is an honest man who embraced life, loved his family, adored his students and a lifelong, diehard Dallas Cowboys fan.
Mr. Wilkinson was a big man, literally and figuratively. My first impression upon meeting was “My goodness! This guy is gigantic.” He was about 6 feet 3 inches tall and easily weighed about 300 plus pounds. He was born and bred in Texas and always proudly to be a Texan. He had a bad habit of telling bad jokes at the end of each class. Years had gone by but I still remember two of his iconic jokes told by Wilk. I would like to share them with you.
The first one was about the barred windows in his classroom. He primarily taught in a room on 2ndfloor and unlike other rooms in the school, this one has bars on its windows. When we pressed him about this oddity, he made us sworn to secrecy; and revealed to us the school has to lock these windows to prevent him from throwing the delinquent students out. We were shocked and horrified, but then he flashed his smile and said “Nah, just messing around with you!”, and shooed us out of there. Till this day, nobody knows the real reason for the bars and he even swore his wife, Carol, into keeping this a secret as well. This is probably the greatest prank he had pulled on us till date.
Wilk’s second favorite joke was told to us on the day of our AP Calculus exam. He had spent the entire school year to teach and prepare us for this test. Understandably, we were all stressed out since Calculus is one of those long, tedious and difficult AP tests. Prior to the exam, he offered to tell us a joke about a mathematician on an airplane to lighten up the mood. It went as follow (paraphrasing)
A mathematician is on a 6-hour flight from New York to London. However, one of the engine failed and had to be shutoff soon after taking off. Due to this incident, the flight time was extended to 13 hours. A couple hours later, the pilot had to turn off another engine due to failure as well. This problem caused another 3 hours delay to the arrival time. The halfway through, another engine failed but the pilot ensured everyone that it was still safe and the trip will extend by another 3 hours. Upon hearing this, the mathematician turned to his friend and said: “At least this pilot is consistent. I reckon that If the last engine fails, our trip will be delayed by another 3 hours!”
Per usual, it took a bit of time for the joke to sink in. Once it did though, we collectively groaned; and fled his classroom to take the exam.
Besides being a teacher, Mr. Wilkinson was an obsessed, borderline fanatical, football fan. It made one hundred percent sense since he was from Texas. He often told us that there are three things that he cherished the most in life – family, friends and football. His favorite team was the Dallas Cowboys. During the NFL season (which runs from September to February), he would start each Monday lecture with a long rant about the results from the Dallas Cowboys’ game on Sunday. If the Cowboys won, no homework for the day. On the other hand, a pop quiz would certainly be given and its difficulty depended on how bad of a loss the Cowboys had. Needless to say, all the students adopted the Dallas Cowboys as their second favorite football team. Much to his disappointment (and the students’ dismay), the Cowboys were not that successful between 2007 and 2008.
By now, you should have wondered how a teacher who told bad jokes and gave quizzes based on the results of this favorite football team could be brilliant, or even a source of inspiration. I am here to tell you that he is brilliant and inspiring. Remember the Calculus exam? Even though the joke sounded terribly, his method did work and we walked into the exam in a better mood. We did pretty well if I remember correctly, a testament to his teaching. What about his yearly rants on football and the Cowboys? They drove me into reading and learning football to understand how a sport can have such a profound effect on this man; and gained an understanding and love for the game afterwards. He somehow found a way to turn myself into a football fan! If you ran across any student of Mr. Wilkinson, they will rave and gush about how he helped, inspired and loved them. Personally, the most important thing that he has taught me was not zeroing on the end results, but rather focusing and loving the journey, and to appreciate the daily grind and the people who share it with you. If I have to describe his brilliance, I have to say that the man just had an incredible knack of telling us what we needed to hear and more importantly, at the right moment.
If you have not realized yet, Mr. Wilkinson loved to tell stories, be that it may be jokes or advice or life lesson. But the majority of his stories involved his wife, Carol, and his daughter, Holly. Many of his stories were told as the expense of Mrs. Carol and Holly. They were not malicious or mean-spirited, but rather wonderful ways of sharing his love for them. Mrs. Carol is also a Math teacher at Egg Harbor Township High School. It is often that she will pop in mid class and ask him what he wants for dinner; and he would march over to her class afterwards to complain about her meatloaf, and the students will always jump to her defense. It was a strange dynamic to me, because he did love her meatloaf, judging by how often he had that for lunch. Looking back, it was a lovely banter between spouses that I did not realize at the time.
How does Mr. Wilkinson fit into the theme of this contest? It is simple to me. He is a man who loves his wife, adores his daughter and passionate about his jobs and responsibilities. Is he the type of person that all of us should strive to be? I believe that wholeheartedly. Mr. Wilkinson passed away in 2013 at the young age of 58. I was truly saddened by his loss. Wilk, you are greatly missed! I will always remember the life lessons and bad jokes that you shared with us. Thank you for making a forever impression in my life!