The best teachers I've ever known are storytellers.
I have few memories of the classes where I didn't feel a personal connection with the teacher. That's not meant to be an attack on the good people who work hard in this profession; it's just that it's hard to deny a strong correlation between a teacher's personal touch and the willingness of students to engage the content.
Jarmo Puiras with his booming Finnish voice taught me the differences between romantics and realists while he spoke to us about what motivates Jay Gatsby. Leslie Brien took a strawberry Snapple out of her filing cabinet at the beginning of each class - I remember that - and I remember the way she spoke about Hamlet's motivations with such wonder that it made us wonder, too. Ian Clancy told us about his own running days while we were out for mileage. He had us all over for a pasta dinner the night before we left for the Ontario Cross Country Championships.
I still hear their voices in my head. Mr. Puiras and Mrs. Brien still motivate me to love the text, and Coach Clancy still motivates me to keep running.
Murray McArthur squinted up at us (in a chemistry lecture hall, of all places) and told us the correlations between James Joyce's life and the exploits of Stephen Dedalus. It was then that I had my own epiphany that in becoming an English teacher I was fulfilling my father's unrealised dream for himself. Linda Warley showed me the theory behind life narratives and taught me how to deconstruct, construct, and theorize memoir. It was her passion for her own life history that drove her to love auto/biography studies, and that drove me to focus on Canadian memoir for my English thesis.
Walter Epp took our History Curriculum class to different sites around Thunder Bay and showed us that the history of these many places together create the history of the whole place. He even dressed up as historical figures and memorized their own words - he brought them to life.
Tell your class a story and they'll all stop to listen - I mean really listen.
My colleague Joe King may get fired up about hockey, among other things, but his students love going to math class because of him and his stories. He's one hell of a math teacher and his students get so caught up in his rants that they don't even catch themselves falling in love with math.
My colleague Leo Malatches had a nerf football that he would get the kids to punt through his arms. I saw him doing that when I walked past his room one day. I was in my second year of teaching and he indirectly showed me that it's ok and important to have fun in class, and that anyone can do anything whether it's punting a football or analyzing a challenging literary text.
My recently retired colleague Jack Nahrgang is probably the greatest storyteller of them all and I regret never sitting in on one of his classes, but I didn't have to to know that he's the real deal. In schools we all know who's the real deal. He took his students across the ocean to see the European places that he had taught them about, and when they came back they constructed real life models of historical artifacts and landmarks. When Jack speaks inside a classroom he brings his listeners to the place, to the time. His voice - oh, his voice - students will never forget it. In his retirement I know he will write.
The best teachers I've ever known are storytellers. That's the humanity in every curriculum, regardless of the subject.