Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dearly Departed: Mr. Arthur Matchette, Latin and English Teacher Extraordinaire

Mr. Arthur Matchette, from my 1992 yearbook.
I found out Saturday that one of the most influential educators in my life had passed away from cancer on Friday morning. Mr. Arthur Matchette was a staple at my alma mater, Amon Carter-Riverside High School, having taught there for over 30 years—his entire career— as well as being an alumnus. I’ve been seeing many tributes to him on Facebook, some of them pointing out his quirks (let’s just say he had a slight addiction to Carmex), his influence in musical appreciation (our unofficial class song was Dreams by Fleetwood Mac), and the multitude assignments he would give us (75 in one six weeks!?!). To me, though, he was more than that. He was hands down the person who directed my education and eventual certification to be a high school English teacher.

I had Mr. Matchette for all four years of high school. I took Latin I- IV, as well as honors English IV. Through taking his classes, I learned that organization would  help me in the end by making sure my work was turned in. I also wondered how I ever made an A, since it was pretty much impossible to turn in all the assignments he gave. I have since learned how that worked (#tradesecret-- teachers know). As a teacher, I truly appreciate the intellectual banter he would have with students. My own students should be grateful that I had this experience in school, because it gave me a great example as to how I should interact with students.

I owe my vocabulary to this man, especially the ability to pick out the Latin root of almost all words in multiple Latin-based languages. Without all those years of translating The Aeneid from Latin to English, then English to Latin, I don’t think I would have been able to stumble my way through college Spanish, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to translate half of the French I was faced with on my trip to Paris last November.

He encouraged my writing by telling me as a ninth grader that I could go to college right then and succeed in writing just as well as any college freshman. That was a huge boost— I wanted to go to college, but none of my teachers or counselors had ever said that they thought I should go or that I would succeed. This is so, so important for children to have this encouragement. If I hadn't had it, I'm not 100% sure I would have gone to college or have reached my current accomplishments.

I am, in part, the person I am today because I was graced with the privilege of having Mr. Matchette in my life. I hope that I’ve had even a little bit of influence on my own students that this man had on me. I wish that I could have made it to his visitation. It was held last night at the same time as I was representing my publishing company, Sleeping Panther Press, at a book lecture and signing by one of my authors at The Wild Detectives in Dallas. I think he would be forgiving of that, though. He would be proud of how far I’ve come as an educator, a writer, a publisher, and an intellectual.

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