29 August 2009

Professor J. Sheeler

I seriously considered changing Sheeler's name, but as I was considering it, the realization dawned that I have absolutely nothing terrible to say. I suppose changing a name is more a protection for me than for the person involved, but, hey, it doesn't hurt to be kind.

I met Prof Sheeler about a year ago, in a reporting class at school. I believe it may have been his first semester teaching at the university, his alma mater. I remember walking into the classroom and thinking, "Oh my gosh it's Stephanie's dad."

My friend Stephanie's dad is small, slightly timid, and grins sideways when he doesn't seem to be exactly sure of what's going on. Sheeler seemed to be the same way: very slender, just below average height. I guess what really made the connection was that he was wearing khaki slacks and a white long-sleeve button-down shirt with a dark tie. Loafers and light brown hair parted on the side completed the ensemble of an altogether unassuming persona.

The students in my class arranged themselves relatively silently as we waited for the quiet man poking his fingers at his Mac to say something. Maybe he was nervous; I'll probably never know. When we found out the kind of writing he'd done in the past, my peers and I raised our eyebrows. How such a quiet-looking man could be an award-winning obituary reporter who'd also happened to write an award-winning book was nearly beyond me.

And then, all of a sudden, it made perfect sense. I thought of the past reporting/journalism professors I'd taken classes from in the past and suddenly I knew that there was no way I would have opened up during an interview with them as I would have talking to Sheeler.

As much as I generally do not enjoy reporting, Sheeler made the process much less painful. No question, at the end of the semester, the entire class was pretty much set on the belief that Sheeler was/is one of the best teachers who has ever graced the halls of the Armory.

I'm pretty sure that he's married with kids, although I don't know how many children he has. Two? Three? I could probably look up the information, but I'd rather not. It's like writing about people who have died or who have gone through terrible things has made Sheeler a calmer man, one who understands the meaning of being a person and not a source who gets quoted in the nut graph.

People in the J-school love Sheeler. He doesn't make it easy; he still makes us work for our grades and for our experiences. He's the kind of person who, if I ever saw him yell or even raise the level of his voice higher than just below speaking level, would shock me like crazy. Yet it also strikes me that the person he is in class could be altogether different from the person he is off of campus. Maybe he's a graffiti artist goth who spends his free time pulling off spiders' legs in the women's restroom. But as fascinating as that would be, I like it better that Sheeler is approachable and doesn't wear black lipstick. I feel like that would take away from his general cool-guy persona.

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