Thursday, September 12, 2013

Novato: Edified in 6 Edifices of Essential Education

Two weeks ago I hurried home after holding our new grandson, Jamison, so that I could return to my hometown of Novato, CA to speak at my old high school. As an ambassador for the California Transplant Donor Network I have the opportunity to encourage students to choose life and become organ donors when they get their driver's license. I was extremely excited as I had not visited my high school since I graduated in 1976. The evening prior an article about my visit appeared in the local 'paper' The Novato Patch (see article here) Early Wednesday morning on the August 28 I mistakenly left at 4:00 am as my alarm clock was an hour early. As such, I arrived in Novato two hours early. I decided to tour the places representing my youth.
Calle Paseo House age 4-11

Loma Verde Elementary

Corte Alta house (moved in when sibling # 9 was born)
Age 12-19

San Jose Junior High

Novato High

Novato LDS Church

I spent 87% of my life from age four to 16 in these buildings and therein learned most of the precepts and values that shaped who I am and what I could become. I had some amazing teachers. Mr. McNern, my third grade teacher, not only taught me extraordinary new ideas in math, geography, world studies and linguistics, he supported my fragile ego just when I first learned that I was poorly coordinated in sports and therefore de facto unpopular. When I said that I wanted to be president of the United States he completely believed in me.
The man who taught me algebra in 8th grade was Mr. Orth and he was very cool for an old man. Recently, his neighbor came to see me for treatment of his prostate cancer and sent me Mr Orth's phone number with an invitation to call. Mr. Orth's octogenarian voice answered with youthful effervescence still intoned. "Kevin Anderson," he mused. "Weren't you that sandy haired Mormon boy from a large family?" "That's me." I chucked. What a simplistic description my young life.
I thanked him for teaching me algebra and teaching me how to teach. I was later a T.A. for him.
I stopped by my church where I spent so many hours a week for 15 years. Oh the lessons I learned there: on keeping God's commandments, on studying scripture, on the duties of a priest, on learning how to ask a girl to dance, on tying knots that could save your life; or somebody else's.
Soon, however, it was time to go to Novato High. I had to walk by my old chemistry and pre-calculus classes. Mr Hicks and Mr Schrick respectively prepared me for college and medical school as they enlarged my understanding more than almost any other teacher until I met Dr Bradshaw my last year of college.
Nostalgia overload then gave way to the task of convincing two classes of new freshmen to check the organ donor box at the DMV. I told them my story of how I am here because of Shane, my heart donor. I sensed understanding in their eyes as their numerous questions confirmed the seeds on conviction. It was my turn to teach in my old school.
The last two buildings were our homes. Dad taught us to work hard and how to treat others in society. He taught us to respect women. Mom answered my unending curiosity about everything. One day I asked, "Why do our memories begin around age three?" She thought for a minute and explained, "It is probably related to when we start speaking so that we can remember with words." That seemed so wise to me, it still does.
All of the buildings look mostly unchanged over 40 years. The trees were bigger. It was the people in them that had changed, just as the world outside did the same.
I am forever grateful for my teachers. What they taught me I taught to others; and so it goes on ad infinitum.
Novato was good to me.