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10 March 2009 @ 10:56 am
Hypatia's Day  
Today is Hypatia's Day.

In honor of Hypatia, tell me a story about a teacher, librarian or mathematician who made a difference in your life.

Some great ways to honor Hypatia:
Become a tutor
Become a mentor
Donate money to your public library
Donate books to your public high school
Give books to friends
Hug a teacher
Hug a librarian
Thank the teachers that influenced you
Buy a teacher a nice gift
Buy a librarian a nice gift
Give a book that inspired you in your youth to a young friend or family member
tenshiemi on March 10th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
Darn, I can't think of any :( I never really formed relationships with my teachers, I wonder if it's because I always acted like school was a waste of my time...
Angerieangerie on March 10th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)

Dawson. I already told you the story about how he picked out my poem and read it to the class. But when I was flunking out of college, I went to visit him back in his classroom one day after school. He screamed when he saw me with his arms out and ran over to give me a hug. And we talked about school, about what I needed, and he really treated me like I was ... you know, special. something.

Not to mention - he had a killer biology and epistemology class.

We had an outdoor.. um.. suburban wilderness, and we went out there in the summer to do experiments, collect bugs, study trees. On his way back inside from the heat, he fell in the hallway. He had a heart attack.

When he came back, he sat in his chair in the front of the class with a dictionary on his lap, and he read to us the definition of "pristine." Because he doctor told him his arteries were "pristine."

He wrote poems and I need to find them. Because he wrote a collection of poems and sent them to me after I had graduated. (along with a lot of other people.) I read this poem where he was talking about retiring, and he was listing students, like - how could he leave the chance to find another Susan, Clark, Ali [and then my heart skipped because he wrote] or Rachelle.

He was a neat teacher.
Angerieangerie on March 10th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)

I haven't had a great math teacher. But I did have this one who gave me a chance. It was my freshman year of high school and I was very bored. A little depressed for a whatever-year old. I had went from being a good student to being a bad, bad student, but I wanted to come back to the good side.

In this guy's class, he made everyone in the room repeat "Is over of equals percent over one hundred." Now this is not my favorite way to learn something, but it's effective. Over and over, is over of equals percent over one hundred.

So when I found out he was picking kids to go to the math competition, I asked to go. He signed me up for the percentages test.

I went with my friend with no hope of winning anything because I wasn't good at school. But I did get called up on stage as a finalist. And I think I ended up, like, in sixth place with my "is over of equals percent over one hundred" understanding. And he told me, "Your eyes got bigger every time your name was called. It's a good thing you didn't get first place or they would have popped out of your head."

Yeah, Mr. Martinez. That was his name.

He had a pretty wife. I remember that, too.
Khallis: Astronomykhallis on March 11th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
Alright then.

He was a teacher, once, but that was decades before I met him. He had been a professor of mathematics - back before he went crazy. His name was Tyrone.

When I was a kid, you see, my uncle Fred used to pick me up in a car full of RC airplanes; he'd buy me an orange crush and a bag of beef jerky, and we'd go out to the flying field.

Sometimes, Tyrone would be there. Tyrone drove an ancient dusty grey Honda, he wore ancient dusty brown clothes, and he sported the most amazing frizzy grey explosion of nasal hair a man has ever been graced with.

He was crazy. He was a genius. You had to stop and listen to everything he said to sort out which was which.

I didn't have the money or the space or the skill to build the big RC planes back then, so I built these little free-flight models out of a few sheets of balsa. Tyrone taught me things I hadn't worked out yet, about designing airplanes. Center of gravity, center of pressure, speed stability, dihedral and yaw/roll coupling and dutch roll... he knew the math, and moreover, he had a true intrinsic gut understanding of the ramifications.

Everything Tyrone built was immediately recognizable - they were all covered in red ricepaper film, they all had big white dragon squiggles on them, and they all weighed approximately... oh... nothing.

If you asked him what the squiggles were, he'd tell you they were Martian writing. If you asked him what they said, he'd tell you it was shockingly rude and he could never repeat it in polite company. He would announce this with such solemn gravity... you couldn't quite ever be sure if it was his sense of humor, or his craziness, there. His sense of humor played on that often; I remember asking him his last name, and him insisting it was "Shoelaces".
"Ty'yrrone shoelaces."
"... Oh."

Tyrone could do things nobody would believe if we weren't watching him do them. He was doing prop hangs and hovers and harriers and so on, back before anybody else had realized they were possible.

He really was crazy. I remember him getting frustrated once, yelling, "If my clothes look like I slept in them? IT'S BECAUSE I SLEPT IN THEM!" Whenever he was too crazy, which happened to him sometimes, he wouldn't come to the flying field; he'd just stay home until he was less crazy. He lived in a trailer park near my neighborhood. I ran into him once, out by his mailbox when he was in one of his 'too crazy' phases, and he didn't recognize me or know who I was - but then he got less crazy again, and knew me next time I saw him at the field.

He really was a genius. He drew out these incredibly meticulous blueprints for his airplane designs - drawn with a pencil, but you would swear they were machine printed. His handwriting was a monospaced blockprint in a uniquely stylized font, uniform and perfect, line after line.

He made enough money between his pension and selling airplanes to get by. I think he got some blueprints published in some magazines once. He had his dinners at a little dive cafe across the street from his house, ordered the same thing every day; they'd start making it when they saw him crossing the street.

He treated me like an equal and an adult, even though I was a kid. He taught me about airplanes and math. He gave me old textbooks from the 1950s with pencil marks in them correcting the parts that were wrong. He was way out somewhere past eccentric, but he made a big impression on me.

I'd like to show him the VTOL I designed. I'd like to show him my trebuchet, I think he'd have liked that. "Righto", he'd have said; that was his expression of approval for all things.

Crazy old coot. I miss him.
naechnaech on March 12th, 2009 08:07 am (UTC)
Man...is it too late to collect the free hugs?

I had a few teachers influence me both positively and negatively over the years. They took my worst subject and made it one of my favorites, and turned my love of math into apathy for years after.

I'd have to say the first teacher that really stands out in memory is my second grade teacher. He let us push the limits of what we were capable of learning. Each student was able to go at their own pace, no matter how slow or fast that might be. I was able to explore the sciences enough to be able to help my 9th grade cousin with her work. I was exposed to enough math that I eventually was placed a year ahead. While I have other friends with similar experiences, they've generally suffered teasing and such for standing out in the crowd. This teacher built our class into a solid community, where we all supported each other, no matter where we were on the spectrum, and we always cheered each other's achievements no matter how big or small. Looking back now, as a teacher, it amazes me how much he was able to accomplish, and I hope to have just a portion of the success he had setting up such an incredible classroom environment.