THE BEST TEACHER I EVER HAD

It was in college at UCONN.  His name was Professor Croteau.  He was short, wiry and a bundle of bubbling enthusiasm.

When I transferred to UCONN, there was no language requirement in the College of Liberal Arts.  Just after I got there, however, the university decided you had to have a year of a language to get a degree.

I stalled; but as I faced my senior year, I had to make a decision:  Do I go back to my nemesis “French” or try a different language?

French certainly should have been the easy choice, but with such a checkered history, I wasn’t sure what to do.  You see, back in high school in New York, I failed French I using the textbook my uncle wrote.

The teacher claimed I cheated by looking at my neighbor’s paper.  Truth be told, with my poor eyesight, I couldn’t see my neighbor’s paper no less what was on it.  The teacher wanted to hear none of it, so I had to repeat French I.

Probably got an 85 or so when I repeated, so they put me in the French Honor Class for French II.   The teacher here was a quiet, mousy thing and never called on me.

I sat in the back of the room reading Howard Fast novels and she kept putting me back in the honors class in III and IV.  Then I made the compound mistake.

In New York you had to take a statewide regents exam at the end of two years or three years.  Since I knew next to nothing about French, I decided I would pass the two-year regents and go for the three.

My unassertive teacher apologetically explained she couldn’t keep me in the honor’s class.  I’d have to go into the regular French V class.

So I went to French V with Mr. Eckstein, who decided within a week I had faked my way through two years of French.  He was astounded and told me so.  Taking his advice, I went back to French IV and somehow got by the two-year regent exam.

When I went to the University of Oklahoma, I never had a language requirement and thought I would have the same free pass at UCONN.  That’s when my luck ran out.

I had all my credits to graduate at UCONN except the new language requirement.  So in the summer of 1953, Freddy Cohen and I enrolled in Professor Croteau’s one-year French immersion course.

Freddy and I lived in a dumpy apartment overlooking the Willmantic River that summer and went to school three hours a day, five days a week.  On weekends we worked in Moodus, Connecticut, alternately in a gas station and a restaurant, whichever was busiest.

Professor Corteau was a bundle of energy and enthusiasm.  He had us singing songs, acting out skits and complimenting each of us on everything we did.  He was retired from the full-time faculty but came back each summer to spread his joy of French among the willing and the not so willing.

It was a wonderful experience and he pulled us through that year of French in his six-week summer course.

I wish I had had more teachers like him.  I would have learned more and enjoyed the academic side of school infinitely more.

ArtSchwartzSig

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “THE BEST TEACHER I EVER HAD

  1. Paul White

    Art,

    I was in the UCLA School of Business Administration (no longer in existence) and had to have both a language and a science class (?) Spanish and Field Botany. I am probably one of the few graduates who have a B.S. in business instead of a B.A. Hated the language and liked being in the field for the botany class.

  2. vuluvu daancey see-vu-play? (Always got a big laugh during the 20 months I spent as a GI on the French/German border using my favorite pick up line).

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