Monday, March 18, 2019

Five Teachers Who Shaped My Life

I saw The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Netflix) today, and it got me thinking about the many brilliant teachers I have had. While I often give my parents most of the credit for raising me, they were helped by some fine men and women who have dedicated their lives to feeding young minds.

I wrote up a quick post about five teachers who have played important parts in my ongoing journey through eternity.

Prof. Koya
Professor Koya (he was Dr. Koya at the time):
A fine and elegant gentleman, Prof. Koya was the best professor I had in OAU (the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria). He was Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering for 2 of the 5 years I spent there, and taught a few courses such as Engineering Design. While many professors acted like they were doing us a favor and could not be bothered to answer questions, Prof. Koya’s instruction was sublime. Outside the classroom, he was ever ready to listen and always willing to support. Many alumni of the department continue to speak fondly of him, and it was a privilege to be taught by this fine man.

Prof. Oluwaleye
Professor Oluwaleye (he was Dr. Ogunleye at the time):
Prof. Oluwaleye had me aspiring to be a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after his first class. Beyond teaching us about energy generation and transmission, he explained very simply how Nigeria’s struggles with industrialization were partly linked to our energy challenges. (As an aside, energy does not always mean electricity). After his class, in which I had one of my best grades in OAU, I began aspiring to a career in Energy Engineering. This aspiration quickly fell through as I had other deep-rooted aspirations, but I will never forget the kind and soft-spoken pastor from Ekiti who had me believing I could become anything I wanted – including a Nigerian politician. I was delighted to find he is now Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) at the Ekiti State University.

Dr. Alade (she was Miss. Alade at the time):
If I had to describe Dr. Alade of Wesley College Ibadan in one sentence, I would say she had high standards in a way that made me want to become the best I could be. She was articulate, very knowledgeable, and commanded respect, admiration, and fear in equal parts. She taught Agriculture, and I learnt more than I cared to know about the subject because I wanted to gain her approval. I did not connect with her personally like I did with the other teachers on this list, but I remember her fondly every time I refuse to accept mediocrity.

Mr. Aladeloye:
Mr. Aladeloye is a legend among many generations of Loyola College Ibadan alumni. He was famous for many things: his dexterity with the cane, his vast knowledge of science, and his love for brilliant students. I’ve written about him before, and the truth is I owe a LOT to this man. He pointed out my potential to me and motivated me to start studying at night. He gave me extra lessons after school even though we could not pay for them. (For many years, we owed him a N800 balance for private lessons he gave me in JS2 or JS3. I recently visited him at home and gave his children a cash gift, and that made me very happy). He and his wife are now good friends with my mother. I am grateful for the gift of this brilliant man!

Dr. Akingbelu
Dr. Akingbelu (she was Mrs. Akingbelu at the time):
Dr. Akingbelu, Proprietress of Kings and Queens School Ibadan, was a huge part of my ‘becoming’. Had she not accepted to keep me in school through the many terms when my fees were delayed, I would probably have followed a very different path. (I sometimes think my parents would have found another school where they would have let them pay the fees in installments if things had not worked out with Dr. Akingbelu, but what if they did not?). Dr. Akingbelu is a passionate educator who was always tweaking the curriculum and learning environment to deliver a superior learning experience. Whenever she addressed the assembly, she would remind us of our potential to be – or stand before – Kings and Queens if we were “diligent in our work”. She encouraged my love for reading and gave me a head-start on public speaking by appointing me a newscaster, responsible for reading national news to the school assembly once a week. God bless you, Dr. Akingbelu. The world is a better place because of the many good kids who have passed through your school.

There, these five teachers stand out in my life. How about you? Did you have any great teachers? If they are still alive, do you want to reach out and thank them for their service? Do it now; don’t wait until it is Teachers Day.

Cheers to the new week.

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