On Meeting My Best English 20 Student 41 Years Later

Well, these things do happen occasionally along the way.

Was going to drop off my tax at the office tower adjacent to Sutton Place Hotel this morning. Pressed the first letter for the tax office name and his name came up like magic.

Now I don’t know about you, but when I come across a window, I usually view it as an opportunity meant to be, a message or sign. Anyway, I rolled up on the elevator 6 more floors after I accomplished the first errand of the day.

He had to be paged, but through the mists of time, stepped Garnet, same smile, now 55, filled out, nicely coiffed, and smelling pleasant. He was, of course, happy to see me and remembered only too well the only 100% final grade I ever awarded a student had achieved in that course with me, thanks to his ‘beating the system’ with my extra work opportunities. He was a teacher’s delight and never ‘sucky’.; he just honestly worked hard and wanted to do his best and then some.

Garnet was a remarkable student; he was 15 in grade 11 as I recall, about one year ahead of everyone else and smaller than the other kids. You could tell, even then that he was destined for success, likely in business.

What he ended up excelling in was law and now works with MLT Atkins as a tax counsellor and, no doubt, an expert. He mentioned that he still drives by McNally and remembers his days there. He is still in touch with another McNally student–the Olympic swimmer named Cheryl Gibson (given last name) who also went into law.

Garnet turned out to be pretty decent, is unmarried, and still takes care of his elderly parents. I was impressed, but not surprised to see that he’d made the grade downtown and stayed in Edmonton; moreover, I was happy to see that he had basically remained the same keen, boyish, friendly character that was once in my classroom.

Garnet, incidentally, was the guy (at 15) who encouraged McDonald’s to come to Edmonton, and they opened up their first store at Capilano in our school’s region. For his efforts, they gave him a scholarship. I knew he’d gone into law because I ran into his name among the prizewinners mentioned in lobby of the Law building where my son used to work there. Even then I was not surprised.

Many kids in classrooms are not as obvious or super-keen as Garnet was, but it has been my distinct pleasure to know, remember, and to meet him again after all this time. More about other students down the road as they pop up. (N.B./ For information about two of my top-ever grade 12 Strathcona students, see Mar. 27, 2014’s entry on filmmaker and musical composer James Mireau, and the Feb. 12, 2015 entry citing anthropologist-filmmaker Niobe Thompson. What a privilege to have taught these two outstanding men! Those kinds of connections give a lot of satisfaction and pleasure after a 30 year teaching career.)

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