A word or two about a favorite teacher

There’s been a lot of talk lately about teachers.

Amarillo is home to the National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples, who teaches English at Palo Duro High School. She makes her community proud. Indeed, her life likely has changed forever … and for the better.

Others have posted messages on social media about their favorite teacher.

I didn’t particularly enjoy school as a kid. I wasn’t a very good student. It’s hard now, so many decades later, to remember precisely why I struggled so much.

I won’t lay any blame on the teachers from whom I learned about readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic.

However, one teacher does stand out in my early years. He was my first male teacher at Harvey W. Scott Elementary School in Portland, Ore. Carl Hendrickson taught sixth-graders.

What do I remember about him? The first memory is that he was damn funny. He made sitting in a classroom enjoyable. He joked with the students, which I don’t recall any of my previous teachers at Harvey Scott school doing.

He had nicknames for his students. What did he call me? Well, he had a variation of my last name that he hung on me. He called me “Ka-knuckles.” He used the name when he called on me to speak to the class; he said it to me privately as he counseled me on my school work.

I took no offense to the name. I kind of considered it a badge of honor to have a goofy name attached to me by a teacher who, if memory serves, was quite popular with all the students who learned from him.

I left Harvey W. Scott school in the spring of 1962 when my parents moved us to a new school district in the suburbs. I was in the seventh grade and I made new friends and got accustomed to a new school system. The Parkrose School District had a junior high school system for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders and we got to move from class to class, just like the big kids do in high school.

In 1983, after I had started my journalism career, I got a phone call from my fifth-grade shop teacher, John Eide, who wanted me to speak to students at a career day at Harvey W. School Elementary School. I accepted the invitation, got reacquainted with Mr. Eide. We had lunch in the school cafeteria and I discovered that the lunch room smelled exactly the way I remembered it as a boy. I asked Mr. Eide if aany of the teachers who taught me back in the old days were still around.

Why yes, he said. He mentioned Mr. Hendrickson. I went to his classroom and by golly, there he was. His hair had turned snow white. He was near retirement, as I recall. We caught up on where our lives had taken us the past two decades.

And he called me Ka-knuckles.

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