If you ever have the chance to watch someone — friend, family, lover — engaged in something they’re passionate about, don’t hesitate. If you do, you’ll witness a transformation, like Superman in a phone booth, where this person you think you know becomes a new, more powerful creature. I’ve watched it happen before and you can almost see light radiating from them, feel the energy waves dancing around them.
So it was when I had the privilege of watching Roxy teach. True, I’ve seen her passionate about other things before: photography, poetry, me. But this was different. Watching her take her place in front of the class, seeing her take charge and guide a roomful of people through their mathematical paces, that was really special.
I’ve been to a lot of conferences, presentations and classes over the years since I left school and one is clear, if you get a great teacher or presenter, it doesn’t really matter what the subject is, you’re going to learn something and enjoy yourself in the process. Roxy is that kind of teacher. Sure, she knows math but that’s not what makes her a great teacher. What makes her truly exceptional is her passion for teaching, she takes her responsibility very seriously. She works hard for those ‘light bulb’ moments and celebrates them. It’s a good thing she’s passionate about her job, because she doesn’t get paid nearly enough for the time she puts in trying to get learning into their heads.
For a year and a half, I’d been hearing about her classes, the successes and failures and diverse personalities of her students. Finally, it was time to see her in action, to see the setting of so many evening dramas and comedies.
On the way, we stopped for food at a favorite sandwich place, Togos, and had time to sit for a bit to eat, flirt and talk before heading to school. Whenever we’re driving around South Bay, she tells me stories about the businesses, events that happened, favorite places that have since closed down, all the inside information a life-long resident has about their home town. It’s one of the things I treasure about visiting her there. I love learning more about her life, the things that are important to her. When she tells the story about a cafe or restaurant or park, I know her better and for a few moments, I feel like I was there with her. She’s a great story teller and I really enjoy sitting back and listening as she paints each scene with words, expressions and hand motions.
We got to the campus and she took me on the tour of places important to her. There was a story for every building, every courtyard, and I loved every moment. This is what I crave, catching up with all the years I didn’t know her. The result is that I feel like I’ve known her all my life. Nothing is too trivial, nothing is boring or ordinary when she’s sharing her history with me. We walked around, hand-in-hand, and I was conscious of how brave that was for her. She was being very out, proudly showing me off. We really love the ‘normal’ moments we get to have together, times when we can be a couple out in the open.
She introduced me to one of her fellow Professors, someone she admires greatly. She didn’t just introduce me as a friend either, this woman knows about her, us, the situation with Mr. Roxy. I felt a little shy at first, but warmed up quickly. It feels so good to be seen for who I am and what I mean to Roxy. The three of us sat in the warm shade talking about all sorts of things until it was time to get to class.
Once we got to the classroom, I sat in the back, careful not to sit in a seat normally occupied by one of the regulars. I had a copy of Gender Outlaws and the remains of my Togos sandwich. We got to the classroom about 20 or 30 minutes before class was to start, but there were already students there, books out, working on problems. I sat back and watched as she patiently worked through the problems on the chalkboard, engaging with the students, making sure they stayed with her. She teaches with a sense of humor and a lot of love for the subject and her students. It was wonderful to watch her work her magic, to see it for myself, after imagining it for so long. And this was no dry lecture, no forced march through mathematical principals. She engaged the class, she kept things moving, she got them laughing, groaning and, most importantly, participating. Her goal is to have them learn and understand as much as they can manage and she’ll do what it takes, including self-depreciating jokes and some clowning around, to make it happen. She’s the kind of teacher who will celebrate her victories and mourn her losses, and she doesn’t believe in leaving anyone behind.
I chose my seat in the back partly because I wanted to stay out of the way and partly to play to some fantasies we’ve had about this situation. You know the ones: bad boy in the back of the class, hot for teacher, watching her every move, making sure every time she looks in his direction, he’s giving her that devil-may-care smile. And Roxy did look up, and on cue, I was looking right at her and she had to work hard not to react too much. At the break, we slipped out to use the restroom and have a moment in the back stairwell together. Then we went back in and she finished up lecturing.
I should tell you about the Tootsie Pops. She buys them at Costco and passes them out during tests and some lectures. She doled them out that night, twice actually, to help keep people motivated and as an incentive to return after the break. A couple of students protested them for vegan reasons. She vowed to find vegan approved lollies for them. That’s how she is, fairness is a very important principal. And another reason I love her like crazy.
Class was over, but a few students still needed one-on-one time, and of course, she gave it to them. She patiently worked through more problems and then it was just her and I. We walked out, hand-in-hand in the cooling night air. I felt full, satisfied and happy. I’d gotten to spend a wonderful day with this amazing, gifted, passionate woman and that makes me incredibly fortunate. Hearing her stories, learning about her life, watching her share her gift with those students… my love for her grew exponentially (again).
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