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Mr. Simons said ‘learn’

Mr. Simons died this past week. Mr. Simons was one of those teachers who changed more than one student’s life. He changed mine, for one. He’s a big reason why I am in the writing profession. His name was Bob Simons, but like every kid like me who took his English classes at Aspen Middle School, he’ll always be Mr. Simons, in the same way that the Broncos coach is Coach Shanahan to his players, and never “Mike.”Mr. Simons, with his generous moustache and toothy grin, never tried to be any kids’ best friend. He wasn’t the least bit interested in winning most-popular-teacher accolades. Instead, he knew exactly why he was a teacher. He was there to inspire, to demand, and to energize his students. It worked. To get his students where he required them to be, he could be downright mean, and downright scary. One of Mr. Simons’ fingers, I think on his right hand, had been chopped off, and so he used that mangled finger as a kind of weapon. If you were blowing it – acting out, misbehaving, messing with his classroom in any way – he’d stab that finger right at you. He got his point across with that finger. Yikes. Nobody wanted any part of “the finger” in Mr. Simons’ class. Mr. Simons commanded respect. He also brought out in his students a desire to learn what he was teaching. He used seat assignments for each of his classes. With study tables lined up in four or five horizontal rows, the top student sat in the left-hand seat in the first row. The least productive student sat in the right-hand seat in the back row. In Mr. Simons’ class, there wasn’t anybody who wanted to sit in the back row. He turned that whole premise of hanging and just getting by in the back row on its ear. Everybody strove to get as close the the front as possible. And I mean everybody. I still have papers from Mr. Simons’ class that he graded more than 30 years ago. He used a big, fat, red Sharpie to grade our essays and our grammar tests. When you got a good grade from Mr. Simons, you’d walk a little taller. You earned something when you impressed Mr. Simons.Since eighth grade, I haven’t kept in close touch with Mr. Simons. I’ve always known he was an avid fly fisherman. I know that he and his wife, Kay, moved to Grand Junction awhile back. I know he liked to play golf. And I know he’s been on dialysis for a few years. I wrote a note to the Simons’ a couple years ago after I read in The Aspen Times he wasn’t feeling well, I and got a sweet note back from Kay. In my note I wrote that Mr. Simons was a big influence in my pursuing writing as a career. I’m so glad now I wrote that to him.Now that he’s gone, In a way I feel like a little piece of Mr. Simons is in these words I write today. Mr. Simons has died, but his energy, his passion for the English language, lives on in me and so many others. Carrie Click is the editor and general manager of The Citizen Telegram in Rifle. Thank you, Mr. Simons. Carrie can be reached at (970) 625-3245, ext. 101, cclick@citizentelegram.com.


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