Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dr. BobbyThompson, Mentor and Teacher of Teachers

Today I remember with fondness my friend, mentor, and professor, Dr. Bobby Thompson. Although I have a very poor opinion in general of the College of Education, Dr. Thompson was a rare individual who really cared about his students and mentored them in research and teaching, offering gentle suggestions and criticism. He is the reason why I became a teacher. He helped with my dissertation research at a time when floppy disks were just appearing and I had to actually go to the library to do searches for $25 a pop and, many times, I would find very little supporting literature but I would come home with boxes of punched cards that contained so very little information yet occupied so much space. A few times I spilled boxes on the sidewalk, having to go back to redo the whole process as it was impossible to put all the cards back in the proper order. 

At the time, when I first started school in the U.S., I was guilty of being just poor enough not to qualify for a Pell grant. Dr. Thompson sponsored, out of his own pocket, the tuition for my first courses. When I had a child and my mom as dependents, I was finally poor enough to receive a Pell grant. Apparently, making a minimum wage of $3.10 was not poor enough. 

I have repaid Dr. Thompson's kindness many times over through the years, mentoring and helping other people pro bono. He would not have accepted any money back, he often sponsored promising teachers. I did not find out until years later, when he passed away, that his generosity paid for my first semester of school. I always wondered who paid my fee. I received a notice in the mail that my tuition was paid in full that semester.

He was kind even when my toddler overfed his fish at the office and the tank became a large mass of goo, killing all his beautiful fish. He cleaned the tank, restocked it and taught my daughter with patience how much food fish actually need and how important oxygen was for their survival.

He and his wife Rebecca babysat my small daughter so I can attend a class or a conference that made me a better student and future teacher. I even cried on their shoulders when things got rough.

There are fewer and fewer professors like Dr. Thompson and they are certainly not found in the vaunted corridors of academia or the College of Education.

May his memory be eternal! His ideas and teachings live through me and hundreds of other teachers who were lucky enough to have met him in college.

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