Reflections of an English teacher…

The Face That Launch’d A Thousand Ships

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wittenberg be sack’d;
And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest;
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appear’d to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa’s azur’d arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour!

~ Christopher Marlowe


As I reflect on the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” and how the character played by Robin Williams  played an interesting role in the life of his students, I am reminded of a similar teacher when I was at school.  I was 15 years old, second year in high school, and gaining a whole lot of new teachers.  I already had my thoughts on some of them.  English was one of those subjects that I was okay with but 1977 this teacher changed my whole view of English and how much fun it could be.  I learned to love reading novels. I could not get enough of poetry.  I loved to write (not so much being critiqued).  I loved topical projects although speaking them in class was always a little nerve wrecking.

Over the years, I have had numerous teachers, but there are few that really stand out in my mind.  Most of them fall within the English, History or Photgraphy category.   Donald McKenzie was my final year English teacher and also the photography teacher.  Vera Castleman was a teacher that I worked with on photography, as well as speech and drama.  David Randall was my technical drawing and speech and drama teacher.  William Smith was my history teacher.  Today I learned of the passing of another teacher that stood out in my mind as a teacher who made an impact on my school life.  Patrick Collyer was my English teacher second year in high school.

He was young, he was energetic, he was fun.  Patrick did not just make English another subject you had to complete in school,  He made English enjoyable.  He made you want to read more.  He inspired you want to learn more.  Poetry was not just an English lesson but a History lesson as well.  I fondly remember the week we were to read a poem about Helen of Troy, and Patrick came into class and said this is the poem we are required to complete but before we do that here is a little bit about the poem…..3 days later we finally got to reading the poem.

He was a man before his time in so many ways.  He had yet to be jaded by students who did not care, nor the rigors and boundaries of a school system. Patrick only spent one year as my English teacher, but for me, it was a year that brought about change for me.

Today if you look at my bookshelves, you will find poetry books, novels, set books from years ago, books that I hold onto and value.  I have become a book collector.  I love the feel of books.  I love to meander through the pages of time.

Teachers are very often overlooked in the bigger scheme of things, but it is teachers to whom we entrust our children to take care of them, to educate them, and to instill in them a passion to learn.  Patrick Collyer was a teacher that I could look up to.  He intrigued me with the stories, he drew me in. My school lost a great English teacher when Patrick moved on to teach at a different school.

I will remember him with great fondness, and a gratefulness for the passion he instilled in me.

In the words of Walt Whitman 1865, 

 O Captain! My Captain!  



4 Comments on “Reflections of an English teacher…

    • Thank you Vera – It is my pleasure to mention you. I have the fondest of memories and I have loved reconnecting with you outside of the school teacher/student basis. I am pleased I can now call you friend.


  1. Yip, Mr. Collier was my rugby coach in my final year at Brettonwood. Playing for the 3rd team n 1977 was a gas. I guess they were running thin on coaches. He was bearded with bell bottom pants and long curly hair and he was to be our coach? We lost more than we won that year but he was very vocal on the side line and went ballistic with excitement the moment we touched the ball. He was motivational to the nth degree and felt more like a older brother to us than a coach.

    Sharleen, your description of him is something I would have imagined him to be in the classroom. The standard of English teaching was high. A year ago I received a letter from a Masters on one of our dredgers and it was so well written I called to compliment him. “I never wrote it” was his reply. “It was Nick Bennetts my 1st Engineer who did”. Nick Bennetts attended Brettonwood in the late 80’s through to the early 90’s and spoke fondly of the high standard set by many of the teachers there, particularly in English as a subject.


    • Thanks – he definitely was a fun and energetic teacher. My last view of his photo’s he was wearing a tie dyed shirt and smiling. I remember those bell bottom pants and the long curly hair. Fresh out of university with such big ideas. I wish he had spent more years at Brettonwood.


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