Zela Elementary School is, as those in the know will tell you, located in the heart of Nicholas County, West Virginia. The rural school --which was a wooden frame when I attended in the 70s -- was directly across the road from The Country Road Inn, one of the best Italian restaurants in the state in it's day. Being a Little Bear from Zela offered up some good experiences: in 7th grade our basketball team played for the county championship (we lost); school fairs were fun, and came complete with an old-fashioned cake-walk (I won, once); and because we students were always together from first through seventh grade, there was a real sense of camaraderie among us.
The best part of my Zela experience, however, was the influence the teachers had on my life. It was long-lasting. It was in that period of 4th through 6th grade that I recall learning about religions other than Christianity. In 5th grade I learned about yoga, vegetarianism and using guided imagery to relax. And in 6th grade Mrs. Suiter taught us how to understand the NFL Playoff system, which had recently moved to a Wild Card system.
It was a fun period of learning.
One teacher had a significant influence on my life. Steve Creasey, who was my Math teacher and the coach of our basketball team, was at Zela for only one or two years. Right out of college, Creasey was still finding his way as a teacher, and worked hard to develop relationships with students. The first male teacher I had, Creasey modeled for me the importance of intellectual curiosity, how to think critically and the value of education. He left Zela way too soon to teach someplace else, and we lost touch in 1976.
Until yesterday, when the now-Dr. Steve Creasey showed up at and participated in a workshop I held as part of my job.
32 years is a lifetime. But for the hour and a half that I spoke to the crowd in which he was sitting, I felt a little like I'd been asked to walk to the blackboard and complete an equation. But overall, it was a very enjoyable, really pleasant experience to show my former teacher that his efforts with this kid, at least, weren't wasted.