One of my favorite high school teachers passed away the other day. Richard Sarver (he always referred to himself as “Dick,” even though his first name was Otto and we wouldn’t have called him anything but Mr. Sarver) was my social studies teacher in 11th grade at Jefferson High in Tampa, Florida. He was 66 when he died last week.
I don’t know that we could tell at the time, being self-absorbed teenagers as we were, but looking back, it’s obvious he loved teaching and having a positive influence on his students. He treated us as people, and not just as the latest batch of things to be talked to for a year and then turned loose.
He never was one to run with the rest of the pack, and I’m sure he made some enemies because of it. Fiercely independent and always positive, he taught us all a little about the Louisiana Purchase and a lot about believing in ourselves.
In the 32 years Mr. Sarver taught in Hillsborough County, thousands of students passed through his classroom. Even though it had been more than 20 years since I was one of those students, he remembered me and was very nice when we had an email exchange a while back. He knew at the time that he was sick and that his time was short, but he didn’t complain. He spoke of the things he loved in life (especially his wife, Dianne, who was a math teacher at JHS) and thanked me for checking in with him.
No, thank you, Mr. Sarver. I’ve had lots of teachers in my life, but not a lot of true educators. 27 years later, you’re still at the front of the class.