Mr. Stephen Collins. Not to be confused with actor Stephen Collins. Mr. Collins was my English teacher for my freshman and junior years of high school. He was also a coach for the football team (varsity or junior varsity – I can’t recall which).
He affectionately referred to me as a “ham”. He believed in me. He was very frustrated at my lack of motivation. Him and no one else it seemed. He once let me recite an essay to the entire class in the voice of Professor John Frink from the Simpsons.
Certain details would seep from his private life during his lectures. Like the time he let slip that his roommate was a theologist during a rather heated discussion about religion that lasted for two class periods.
I’ll never forget the night during my senior year that Mr. Collins met me and a friend at Rubio’s Baja Grill for taco dinner and conversation. I asked him if he had other plans for the evening and he replied, “I’m eating dinner with two of my students, do you honestly think I have anything better to do?”
I wandered into his classroom during my photography class junior year and snapped this picture of him. This was the look on his face at all times. Even when he laughed. Same face, only flush.
This is how he signed my freshman yearbook:
1. If you can keep your head while all those around you are loosing theirs… you obviously do not understand the situation.
2. Never teach a pig to sing… A. It wastes your time and B. It annoys the pig!
3. The amazing thing about the Waltzing Bear is not how gracefully it waltzes – but that it waltzes at all.
4. Smile… it makes people wonder what you are up to!
In the decade since this message was written to me, I’ve managed to keep my head and smile.