Thanks to the Academy - and Mrs. Jane Pease. . .

I was recently chatting with an old friend, each of us reflecting on the good fortune that we have often enjoyed - as well lamenting some of life’s near-misses. This conversation got me thinking back to this past winter’s awards season - the Golden Globes, Oscars, Grammys, TONYs and so on.

Naturally, the winners thank their collaborators (directors, writers, producers, fellow actors/musicians), the folks in their “personal operations” (agents, accountants, PR, etc.), moms, dads, spouses & kids. It’s at this time of year that I always think back to perhaps my favorite acceptance speech - one delivered by Tom Hanks for his performance in “Philadelphia” - where Mr. Hanks harkened all the way back to his high school drama teacher, Rawley Farnsworth.

Which got me to thinking. . . .

Mrs. Jane Pease was my 7th grade English teacher at East Junior High School in Tiffin, Ohio. She was a tough ol’ broad (don't worry - that's how she described herself). In her role as teacher, she was clearly determined (by hook or crook) to impart knowledge AND wisdom onto her students. I recall one spring day - seated in the back of her classroom as I steadily lost interest and got particularly rambunctious. Mrs. Pease had her fill of my disruptions and rightfully called me out, insisting that I focus on the task at hand.

Mrs. Jane Pease and her nemesis.

Mrs. Jane Pease and her nemesis.

My retort: "C'mon - really? English is my native tongue. I've been speaking it for over 10 years now. Why dedicate an entire period to it five-days a week? It’s a waste of my time! I've got it, already!".

Stoically, she replied: "Mr. Muñoz - in this life you have thoughts, ideas, wants and needs. Am I correct?”.

"You are correct, Mrs. Pease".

“Yes - off course, Mr. Muñoz. And you wish for these thoughts, ideas, wants and needs to be understood by others. Am I correct?".

"You are correct, Mrs. Pease".

"Language - young man - is the means by which we communicate. Language is the primary tool available to us to express ourselves. . .to be understood by others. So it is in YOUR best interest to make the most of this opportunity. . .so that you might be understood. . .and so you that you might understand others".

Opportunity? Huh? School - aside from the chance to see my friends - had often seemed a burden. But she was defining school as an opportunity! Ding! She rung the bell in my head and put me on the path toward knowledge. . .understanding. . .learning. From then on, I knew that I had to find the best teachers (within the school’s walls and beyond) and get from them all I could. It was on me. This is MY job. This changed my life.

Now, granted - no one is handing me a gold statuette - but it’s never a bad time to say “thanks”.

So - many, many thanks to Mrs. Jane Pease.

Is there someone that put you on the right track? Be sure to let them know.