My 8th Grade social studies teacher passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in probably five years, but the impact he had on my life is one I will never forget.
Mr. Schneider had a reputation in our middle school. He was the crazy teacher who would stand in the hallway between classes yelling “IT’S A GREAT DAY FOR A TEST!!” while clapping his hands. Who the heck was this guy?!
As a seventh grader, I had heard stories of how he would jump on tables, shout with such vigor that you could see spit shoot across the room, and my favorite was the time he got so passionate and excited that he accidentally knocked the window air conditioner out the window only to watch it dramatically crash onto the pavement below.
By the time I became an 8th grader, Mr. Schneider already knew who I was thanks to other students (my older sister) and other teachers … Kelsey Jones: outspoken, politically active teenager who was ready and eager to embark on a political debate with my peers and teachers. He simply smiled, shook my hand the first day of class and said, “Boy oh boy! I’m excited to have you in my class!”
By the end of the first week, I was almost giddy to go to social studies. Learning about our early American history could have been boring, but learning about it from a man full of passion for his job, the subject, and the kids, made it a thousand times better.
One of the things I valued most about Mr. Schneider was his vow to keep his personal politics out of the classroom. I tried desperately to pry it out of him. “PLEASE Mr. Schneider!! Just tell me if you’re a Democrat!” I would beg him after class. He always laughed and refused. He wanted me and others to form our own opinions. I look back on that now and am thankful he never told me (even though I figured it out later). He made it about the issues, the debates, and letting our young minds form our own opinions.
Mr. Schneider helped ignite my passion for politics, but also my passion for people. He encouraged my political fight and fire. He would debate me, send me articles and discuss current events outside of class, while also caring about who I was as a person. This was a sign of a real teacher - wanting to see students develop into who they wanted to become.
I’ll never forget sitting down with him for a book report interview toward the end of the school year. The report went great, but he had more to say to me than asking questions about the book:
Follow your dreams - don’t be silenced - keep educating yourself on the issues - stand up for what you believe in - continue respectful debate - don’t think you can’t do something - You have the ability to do anything.
That conversation will live on with me forever. The essence of Mr. Schneider will live on with me forever. His smile, clapping, yelling, passion for history and politics and words of inspiration have always and will continue to push me towards my goals.
Many others have written and I agree: Mr. Schneider was surely welcomed into heaven with clapping hands, infectious smiles and as much love as he gave out during his time here on earth.
Thank you, Mark Schneider. Thank you for playing an instrumental role in so many lives, for loving and caring about people, and for using your life to help and influence others for the better. Your life, lessons and love will live on through your many family, friends and students.
I hope to also be welcomed into heaven one day just like I was to social studies - my favorite teacher standing outside the door, clapping his hands with an infectious smile and yelling,
“It’s a great day for eternity!”