Canzano: Mailbag deals with college madness, OSU/WSU, ADs, Bill Walton and teachable moments
Your questions, my answers.
Our kids are back in school next week. Maybe yours have already returned. The start of the school year always makes me think about my sixth-grade teacher.
John Licursi had a giant tank filled with turtles in the back of his classroom. He had a snake named “Goofus” too. There were mice, lizards, fish and all sorts of other adventures waiting when we walked through the door.
We cleaned the cages, fed the animals and learned a lot. Dr. Doolittle could speak to animals, but Mr. Licursi one-upped him — he used animals to talk with kids.
Mr. Licursi had kind eyes, a good head of hair and a bushy mustache. He did some fun things. For example, he created his own special currency in the classroom, complete with a sketch of Goofus in the center of the money. We used those bucks to bid in a weekly auction.
Every Friday, Mr. Licursi banged the gavel as his students bid on pencils, markers, notebooks — and the main event — lunch for two lucky students at A&W with the teacher himself.
I saved my money for weeks and won it.
A classmate and I sat with Mr. Licursi in a booth, sipping root beer and eating a hamburger while he talked about his wife. She had multiple sclerosis and was wheel-chair bound. They had a specially equipped van — yellow with white trim. I know it’s a strange association, but I looked for the van every time my parents drove past that A&W.
In my mind, the Licursi family dined there every night.
He taught us reading, math and social studies, but it’s the other stuff I remember more. Mr. Licursi put up a Christmas tree in his classroom. And his wife wheeled through the door one day and taught the class about her disease. And when I mentioned my grandmother’s home-made gnocchi, Mr. Licursi asked the class if maybe we should all bring foods native to our culture to school.
Then, we picked a day and did it.
I remember struggling with a book-report assignment late in the year. Mr. Licursi summoned me to the front of the room and identified the problem. I was disinterested in the subject matter. He became the first person to tell me “write what you know.”
I switched books.
My subsequent report on the San Francisco 49ers got an “A.”
Mr. Licursi taught for 33 years. He’s retired and I suspect still feeding and caring for animals. As I unpack that thought, I realize my sixth-grade experience was only 1/33rd of his teaching career.
It was so much more to me.
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On to the mailbag…