I break away from regularly scheduled WeFo updates because I learned today that my beloved 11th grade AP English teacher, John Ruppel, died yesterday, Tuesday, June 17, 2009.
I wouldn’t call myself a particularly sentimental person, but I was so terribly saddened by the news. You have to understand, there is no doubt in my mind that I pursued a career in teaching English because of this man. How could I not have, what with the fire he’d ignited?
Ten years later I stood in front of my own students, an 11th grade AP English teacher myself. And what did I do but show them the many Ruppel notes to which I’d so dearly held, the binder full of crazy daily reading quizzes — as Mr. Ruppel said, “un dia sin quiz es un dia sin sol,” — an infamous monumental Moby Dick test for which we seriously crammed, my first failing essay (a humbling experience). I was more like my students than I was like Mr. Ruppel — to whom I could not hold a candle.
In 1993, I acquired a photo of Mr. Ruppel from an overstock of yearbook photos. Whether in my college dorm room or in my home today 16 years later, I have held on that photo that he may inspire me:
So many of us came to love Moby Dick or The Sound and the Fury because of him. But we loved the man more.
Teaching really is a noble profession. And to be honest, unfortunately, many people don’t do it well. But my friend Liam does. My friend Sarah does. My husband will. And Mr. Ruppel did: the more than 800 (and continually growing) members of his Facebook memorial group are testament to that. May that bring his family some small comfort.