Early in Michael Mazenko’s teaching career, he landed a job at a high school–and had no idea the kind of teacher he was about to run into.
New, and still trying to find himself as a teacher, Michael kept a relatively low profile–hanging back and observing, and not quite yet hopping in with everything he could muster.
But this wasn’t the case with an incredibly popular history teacher at the school.
This history teacher was legendary, with a larger-than-life personality.
Beefy, gruff—and a state-championship-winning baseball coach to boot. The best words to describe him and his sturdy frame were “rough and tumble.” He swaggered around the school. Kids hung on to his every word. “Passion for history” didn’t really do this man justice.
His name was Tom Pyle.
One day, Michael sat in the teacher’s lounge, chatting with a colleague, when Tom walked in, chest puffed out, a triumphant grin on his face.
Out of nowhere, he happily barked, “Twenty-nine and oh!”
Michael turned to his colleague, and they exchanged confused looks.
“Pardon?” Michael said, not understanding.
“Twenty-nine and oh!” Tom repeated. The confused look stayed planted on Michael’s face.
Tom grinned. “I’ve been teaching twenty-nine years!” he explained. “I’ve taught the American Revolution twenty-nine times—and America’s never lost!” He laughed. “29 and 0!”
Tom Pyle didn’t just teach history. He didn’t just repeat facts, or even recount events. He told stories, and he lived them.
And when he taught the American Revolution, he taught it like it was happening in real time—like there was still doubt as to whether or not America would pull it off this time.
So for Tom, America really was 29-and-0. And every day, Michael hopes to bring a fraction of that passion to his own classes.
Michael Mazenko is the author of the popular blog A Teacher’s View, and is currently an AP English teacher in suburban Colorado.
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