Of the many people who have positively impacted my life, I'd have to say that Mr. Fowler tops the list. He was my high school science teacher.
Now, don't think he was one of those warm, fuzzy types. He wasn't. His teaching style could best be described as drill instructor.
He was stern, exacting, and commanded/demanded your full attention.
He was about 6'3, dark, tousled hair, dark eyes, and his sense of humor was very dry, but very witty.
I didn't like him at first.
He wouldn't stand for any kind of fuckery in his classroom. He made that clear from day one. He wasn't one of those teachers who would give you some slack, then tighten it up. He was all business.
A few weeks into the semester, I actually started to like him. He had such a commanding presence. He was tough, but fair. He was excellent at sizing people up, judging their strenghs, and building on them. That was something I not only respected, but admired.
Me and my best friend, Bird, used to joke about him. We both had semi-crushes on him. In our conversations to each other, we'd call him Charles, which was his first name. Or sometimes, Chuck.
Anyway, the semester progressed, and one of the things we were learning was the balancing of chemical equations. Mr. Fowler would put a chemical equation on the chalkboard, half finished, and we'd have to go up and balance it out.
I loved this part of class, because balancing out the chemicals so that everything equalled out, just made sense to me. It intrigued me, and I looked forward to puzzling it out on his chalkboard.
On this particular day, Mr. Fowler had put an equation on the board, and asked who wanted to try it first. No one said anything, so he says, "Okay, Sal, you're up."
I got up from my desk, walked to the board, and looked at the equation. Checked it. And, it looked like it was already balanced to me.
I turned to him, said "Mr. Fowler, it looks like it's already balanced."
He turned to the rest of the class, and asked if anyone else wanted to fix the equation.
I felt like I'd let him down. That was a worse feeling than being wrong.
As I walked back to my seat, one of the boys in class went up to the equation, started erasing this, adding that, and finally, told Mr. Fowler it was balanced.
Mr. Fowler turned to face the class. He said "How many of you agree with David's answer?"
Every hand except mine (and Bird's) was raised.
Mr. Fowler said "You're wrong. Sal was right. It was already balanced. If it's not broke, don't fix it."
The one thing he taught me, that sticks with me to this day, is to believe in myself. In my abilities. To not falter.
Sometimes he would enroll me in science contests. Not the way most teachers would do it. Most would come to me, say "you should do this."
Not Mr. Fowler.
He would say "Sal, I signed you up for this. Be there."
And I was. Because making him proud was important to me. He was one of the first people to completely believe in what I could do, in what I was capable of. And I trusted him.
I had missed some days in class after Christmas vacation, so I had to do some makeup work in Mr. Fowler's class. Random, easy shit. Lighting a Bunsen burner, completing a chemical reaction, arranging beakers.
I went into his classroom after my lunch break, and as I came in, he was sitting at his desk.
He motioned to one of the work stations, and told me to get everything set up.
I got to work, set up my work station, complete with goggles and gloves. He was a stickler for things like that.
After everything was set up, I looked around for him, but he wasn't in his office. I stood at my work station, entertaining myself with the beakers.
At this particular time, I was going through a phase where I put those little sticky eyes on everything.
I even put a couple on the beakers I was using, so naturally, I decided to 'animate' them, and make them have a little discussion. While I was waiting.
[gruff Mr. Fowler voice while shaking googly-eyed beaker]
Sally McFly, today you're going to create a flux capacitor out of beakers, tubing, and this burner. We've got to fix the DeLorean. Or you fail.
[high pitched version of my own voice]
Oh, Charles, fix the DeLorean? I don't even know how to change a tire. Can't we just blow some shit up?
As I finished up with this dialog, I heard laughter behind me.
Immediately, I blushed. I couldn't even make myself turn around.
Mr. Fowler walked over to me, picked up one of the beakers and deadpanned "We're not going to blow anything up today, McFly."