My favourite teacher from high school, John Campbell, died suddenly at the age of 62 two weeks ago. He had become a friend, as well as a mentor and a father figure, and at his funeral I saw how many young people felt the same about him. He was an English and modern history teacher, and an incredible one at that. He imbued every lesson he taught with a healthy cynicism, a wicked sense of humour and a love of learning. That sounds poxy about a “love of learning”, but it wasn’t at all – it was a real love of the process of acquiring knowledge and then holding it up to the light, shaking it around and questioning it. Seeing if a theory held up to scrutiny.
I wrote a tribute to him here and I’m still coming to grips with his loss. I hadn’t seen him for a year and I kick myself for that. Time spent with him always felt valuable, inspiring – you’d be zinging off one another talking about everything from current affairs to the mundanities of life with kids. I will never have another conversation with him and that makes me incredibly sad. I have had a few in my head with him already.
I would describe John Campbell as an enthusiast, and having been raised by two eccentric enthusiasts I think being an enthusiast is my favourite character trait in a human. Never too cool for school when it comes to appreciating a new discovery or a new connection. Encouraging other people in their passions, even if that ends up being something like collecting breadtags.
At his wake, another ex-Manly High teacher was talking about him, and he said that John had told him that his number one priority was to encourage kids to be passionate about something. He certainly did that time and time again for hundreds of kids. What an incredible man. We are all the richer for having known him, but that doesn’t make it any easier that he’s gone. He should be enjoying his hard-earned retirement – playing golf and visiting all the places in Europe he taught us all about.
I will never forget him.
P.S. This is the 100th post on FFF! HIGH FIVES all round!!