Saturday, April 18, 2009

Eugene Howard Wade Roast - Do you have a favorite teacher?

My favorite teacher, Eugene Wade, was roasted last night as a fundraiser for a scholarship program, the United Community Resource Fund. Mr. Wade taught at three high schools, Natchez, Franklin, and Brentwood and each had a chance to roast Mr. Wade. He was very young when he started teaching, only twenty, very close to the ages of his students. Many of his students still live in this area and some were there last night. It was an eclectic group of people who gathered to honor him.
Mr. Wade deeply affected students and is well remembered by them because of his charisma and personal touch in the classroom. He sincerely cared for those in his classrooms and we all knew that we could count on him. We looked forward to his classes, which were attended by all types of kids. There was no division in his classroom due to sex, race or clique. We all loved him. We loved him for his three piece suits, his guffawing laugh, and his ability to love all of us spoiled Brentwood white kids. Mr. Wade was one of only two black teachers at Brentwood High and he definitely stood out. But he didn't stand out due to race, it was his teaching style and respect for all those around him. Former students may remember his cheerleading jumps when they would get the answer right or his "Burn, Baby, Burn" game that gave students the chance for extra points. Of course, if you missed the question for extra credit, you got the "Burn" part of the game. Mr. Wade always pulled for us in that game, but he had a devilish smile when you had to go to the "Burn Can."
If I had been able to speak last night about Mr. Wade, I would have told two stories. My Junior year, Mr. Wades' mother died. He took three days off when she died and I believe they are the only three days he ever took leave. I was so struck by his loss, his demeanor, the obvious pain he was feeling. I asked my parents if we could invite him to Thanksgiving dinner and although they thought I was a little weird, they agreed. Asking my family what they remembered about that day, my mom said she remembered how well dressed compared to our family. Typical of Mr. Wade, the gentleman, to come dressed in a three piece suit to honor the occasion. My brother remembers him watching football with our dad cracking jokes. I have often wondered if that was the only football he ever watched. I know he was at all the BHS games, but didn't seem like the type to take time to watch college football. That day was lovely and I will always remember the honor of having him in our home. My younger brother and sister had him a few years later and were grateful to have that bond with him already.
My two high school best friends, Chris and Dean, were also very fond of Mr. Wade. He often referred to us as the three musketeers. They were the two class clowns and Mr. Wade tolerated their craziness and begrudgingly laughed at their antics. You could always see him trying not to laugh which made us laugh that much harder. Of course, this just endeared him to us more and probably encouraged more antics out of Dean and Chris.
My second story involves Chris and Dean. We three sent Mr. Wade an invitation to our graduation. Independently, we had decided that he needed to know that we would want him there even if he wasn't required as a teacher to attend. He gave me a gift at graduation rehearsal and I was dumbfounded. He said very few of his students had ever sent him an invitation and he was touched. I still remember what he gave me, a bottle of White Shoulders perfume. I loved that bottle, and he'd probably laugh to know the perfume made me sneeze. I never could wear the perfume but I think I kept that bottle for fifteen years.
Had I been a teacher or if my children became teachers, Mr. Wade would be the role model to follow. He has been recruiting teachers for eleven years now and I know he makes a big difference there. If he is looking for qualities in future teachers that he possessed in his classroom, then Williamson truly must be the best academic county in Tennessee. I'm not sure any of those teachers will ever equal the transcendent quality that held the students rapt with attention, but we can hope. Do you have a favorite teacher or a story to tell? Use the comment bar to let me know! Also, if you'd like to follow on Twitter or facebook, you can click on those links to the right. Thanks for reading!
More on Mr. Wade in the Williamson Herald at

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