Write a letter to the BEST teachers you ever had, telling them what they did for you!  You'll be amazed how happy they'll be when they hear they had a positive effect on your life.

Email me with a story about a great teacher YOU had, and I'll put it on Toby's website.  wma@tobywilcox.com  

Here are two things I wrote...

A letter to my grade school headmaster, Mr. Foster.  Without Mr. Foster, I would not be who I am today.

A story about my athletic coach, Mr. Inman.  He was a great coach... and I was AWFUL at sports.

Mr. Foster

Letters to Teachers

Here's a letter I wrote to my grade school headmaster, decades after I last saw him.  It made me feel wonderful to tell him what he'd done for me.  If you have teachers who made a difference in your life, track them down and tell them about it.

You'll be glad you did and so will they.

November 19, 2012

Dear Mr. Foster,

Hope you are well and prospering. 

You may need to pull out a yearbook to refresh yourself as to what I looked like long ago.  I'm more or less the same, with a lot of gray and a bit taller.

I write because I had one thing I wanted to tell you, as it was one of the most important things anyone ever said to me and carried me through a lot of rough times over a lot of years. 

When I was in eighth grade, you put me on the annual staff.  I wanted it really really badly.  You signed me up and I was thrilled.  One day, you gave me a camera with a roll of black and white film in it.  It was one of those double lensed 120 mm jobs that you looked in the top and saw an upside down image on the ground glass.  Probably a Mamiya.

I went out that afternoon, prowling the campus for things to shoot.  The only picture I can remember shooting, and I remember shooting it as if it were yesterday, was outside, in back, behind Mrs. Haven's art class, there was a concrete area next to her vast glass windows.  At the far end of the concrete was some giant gas meter / pump / industrial thing mounted in the ground.  I have no idea what it was.  Big arms going everywhere with meters and big bolts holding it all together.  It was rust red and huge.  Seems that it was at least five or six feet tall.  Anyway, I thought it was cool looking, and I leaned up against the window and took a picture.

Once the photographs were developed and printed, I turned them in to you and went on with my annual staff-ing. 

A few days later, you asked me where I had stood when I took the picture.   You told me that you had liked the photograph and had gone back to the spot to try to figure out how I got the image I did.  You shot a roll of film yourself, trying to reproduce what I had done, and you hadn't been able to figure it out.  So you asked me how I did it. 

That moment, that amazing conversation, which lasted far less than a minute, has never left me. 

The thought that a grown up, not to mention the head of the whole school, would go out and spend his time trying to figure out what I had done creatively, trying to match it -- and coming up short, has kept me going for the past umpteen years.  That tiny conversation made me feel in some incredibly pure and white hot flame way, that I was good at something.  That I was special.  That I had what it takes (whatever that meant) to be... something.  It made me feel good about me. 

That tiny conversation and the feeling it ignited still makes me feel that way.  In some ways, more than any paycheck, more than any approval from a movie producer, or any other "feel good" moment I've had, your encouragement STILL makes me feel good about myself and what I am trying to do.  That little flame still burns, white hot and unwavering, after all this time. 

So, thank you.  Thank you very much.  The world is a lucky place to have you in it. 

Within a week or so, it will be exactly 43 years since we had that conversation.  I do not think about it very often, but when I do, I still revel in the feeling it gave me and continues to. 

Thought you ought to know.

with a gigantic hug,

Will Akers

Robert Inman

by William M. Akers

In sixth grade I played center in football. A tall, skinny, tomato stake of a center. Blocking in sixth grade, for me, meant hearing the signal, snapping the ball, and getting flattened. Another thing about football was pileups. I remember like it was yesterday, lying on the grass, my head turned sideways, and someone's cleats sticking in my face guard, nearly touching my nose. After 30 years I clearly remember seeing grass and dirt stuck to the cleats. I also remember not being able to breathe. Everyone was piled up. Everyone was piled on top of me, and their weight made it impossible for my lungs to function. I thought, "I'm either going to die here, or I'm not. And there's nothing I can do about it." They finally got off me, and I got up, walked to the sidelines, and said to Mr. Inman, "I don't want to do this anymore." I quit, right in the middle of a game. He didn't argue. He didn't try to convince me I was making a mistake. He didn't try to tell me how I needed to keep playing football. He didn't do any of a dozen things a bad coach would've done. He told me to get a shower and come on back. He smiled. He knew me. He understood. I became the manager.

When the end of the year rolled around, and he handed out letters to all the football heroes, he told the story of my quitting and followed it up with, "and he was the best manager I've ever had." Everyone applauded and I came up and got my letter. It was a great moment for me, and was made great by Mr. Inman. Not only do I still have that "E", it is the only athletic memento I have. Mr. Inman was always wonderful to me. It takes real character to treat a goofy, skinny, untalented, on athletic kid the same way as the guys whose names are taped on the record board. I appreciated it then, and I do now.

Best Teacher Ever