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A Real American Hero...

Where have all the heroes gone? Just take a look around. They're in your community and mine. They change the lives of thousands of people, one life at a time. None of Mr. Georges' students ever forgot him. He gave a tremendous gift to the community: himself. Like Winston Churchill offering his "blood, toil, tears, and sweat," Mr. Georges gave his intellect, passion for learning, and considerable literary ability to educate three generations of students.

Mr. Georges was born on March 15, 1922, in New York City. His parents were immigrants to the United States and cherished deeply the blessings of liberty that they found here. The young John Georges grew up in the East Bronx in a community of immigrant families with a great respect for learning. He attended St. Benedict's Elementary School and later won a scholarship to one of New York City's most prestigious college preparatory academies, Mount Saint Michael's School. He was awarded Mount Saint Michael's highest honor upon graduation, the Award for General Excellence in Scholarship. An unlimited future was in store for this bright, hard-working young man. But the year was 1940, and like so many heroes of his generation, Mr. Georges was intent on preserving freedom in a world being threatened by tyranny. He joined the United States Marine Corps in April, 1940, long before the U.S. entered World War Two.

A charter member of the 1st Marine Division in 1941, Mr. Georges volunteered to join a commando-style, special forces unit called Edson's Raiders. After intense training, the Raider Battalion arrived in the Pacific Theater in 1942. America had just entered the war, and the Raider Battalion was fated to fight one of the first engagements in the war in the Pacific. Many Americans today have no knowledge of Guadalcanal. They should. We owe our freedom to the sacrifices of the U.S. Marine Corps on that tiny island in the South Pacific. On August 7, 1942, the Battle of Guadalcanal began. For the next 67 days, Marines persevered under the most grueling conditions to stop the advance of the Empire of Japan toward Australia and New Zealand.

"We lost lots of men, some of my best friends. I was a 20-year old sergeant, just a boy."

After 20 months of combat in the Pacific Theater, Mr. Georges was a platoon leader, having seen most of the officers and non-commissioned officers in his unit either killed or wounded. In November, 1943, after a 73-day campaign on Bougainville, he was physically debilitated by a severe infection. He later said that he had wanted more than anything to stay with his unit in the Pacific Theater. But he was transferred back to the U.S. and treated at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. Later in WWII, he served as sergeant of the guard at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and first sergeant in charge of training Marine recruits at Camp Lejeune, NC.

"I believe I got interested in teaching when I was working with the young recruits in North Carolina."

Mr. Georges would later tell a family member that he realized that he had a gift for explaining complex concepts to young people at this point. He also had developed a strong belief in the value of instilling abilities in young people that would make them responsible citizens in a democracy. After the war's end, he was accepted at the renowned Columbia University in New York City and undertook a difficult course of study in English literature and teaching. He completed 5 years of university study in 3 years, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in English in 1949. He did his practice teaching in an area of New York City known as Hell's Kitchen, an economically depressed area with so-called "unteachable" students. Mr. Georges not only survived but thrived there, using his ability to engage young people in attaining excellence.

Mr. Georges accepted a position at Escondido High School in August, 1949. He had remembered the climate and people of San Diego fondly from his days in the Marine Corps and decided to take the teaching position at EHS for just a year. The one-year experiment turned into a 35-year career. He loved Escondido High School, and its students and faculty came to love him. In the early days, he taught freshman and sophomore English, while coaching the Cougar wrestling team. He also coached football along with his good friend, Mr. Bud Quade (see our Photo Album for a picture of these 2 young coaches!)

"Our original faculty at Escondido High School was unbelievable. So were the students."

While this website is named for the classroom in which Mr. Georges spent most of his career, EHS alumni from the 1950's may remember him in a different setting. Due to the expanding population of Escondido, the "old" high school on the hill was supplemented by war surplus tents to house classes. Mr. Georges would later joke about teaching in the hot, windy tents: "Our suffering was in-tents!" When the new high school site on North Broadway was opened in 1958, he was pleased to have his "own" classroom, Rm. 49A.

It was during the early 1960's that Mr. Georges fine-tuned his approach to teaching English grammar and literature. He found that starting from the fundamentals and reinforcing these fundamentals yielded excellent outcomes in all levels of students. He adopted his method of giving 2 tests every day, one on vocabulary and one on grammar or literature.

"I found that repetition is a method of learning. Do that thing over and over, and it becomes second nature."

In a time of "experimental" teaching strategies, Mr. Georges' more traditional approach to pedagogy was sometimes subject to criticism. But the proof was in the outcome: students of all backgrounds attained an amazingly adept ability to write clearly. Many of his students went on to enter Stanford, Harvard, West Point, and Annapolis. And Escondido High School, always noted for its traditions of excellence, achieved a new reputation as a powerhouse for excellence in English. Mr. Georges was made Chairman of the English Department for the Escondido Union High School District and went on to take a leading role in shaping the curricula of high school English classes throughout California.

"I loved watching kids grow intellectually and go on to succeed in college and life. It was the most tremendous pleasure in the world."

And succeed they did. Over the course of four decades, thousands of his students went on to productive and successful lives. They may have forgotten the exact grammar rule for an elliptical clause, but they would always remember the teacher who treated them with dignity and inspired them to do their best. Did Mr. Georges have a "favorite" class? He always had something positive to say about all his students, but he once let slip to a family member that he considered the Class of 1961 the best. We look forward to hearing from members of the illustrious class of '61! You must have been something really special!

"All I've wanted to do since coming to Escondido is teach."

Mr. Georges experienced a heart attack in 1977 and had a triple bypass operation. He went back to teaching that same academic year. In September, 1978, he had a stroke and was critically ill. He returned to teaching six weeks later. Nothing could keep him away from Rm. 49A or the students who gave him so much joy. However, in the Spring of 1984 his condition worsened. His poor health forced him to retire, much against his will. He spent the last year of his life with patience and courage, helping others. Many members of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Escondido will remember his glorious voice reading the scripture on Sunday mornings. Family and friends remember his optimism and encouragement, even as his own life slipped away. He died on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1985, at age 63. Over 2000 mourners attended his funeral, and one observer said that "it seemed like Escondido stopped that day." He is buried in the community he loved, and the Georges family placed an appropriate quote from Shakespeare on his grave marker:

"Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

We were so privileged to have known this American Hero.


Quotes from Mr. Georges were taken from:

Witt, Ted. "Teaching them the 'write' way from the beginning. Times-Advocate, March 1, 1981.

Cordry, George. "John Georges, master teacher, retires after 34 years." The Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 1, June 27, 1984.

Thanks to Dr. Jane Georges, EHS Class of 1973, Professor, University of San Diego, and the Georges family for background information.

From a letter written by Mr. Georges...


Mr. John Georges
EHS Faculty for 35 years

For a complete history of the U.S. Marine Raiders defending freedom in WWII, click on: