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Do Teachers Matter?

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From the 1967 Gong
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Do teachers matter? Read these excerpts from our Guestbook and witness the difference that one teacher made in shaping lives...

Like everyone else I knew, I was in awe of Mr. Georges' prowess as a teacher as well as his personal charisma. He was able to habituate his students to the relentless rigor of his quizzes and essays in part because he exemplified such quiet strength of character. Whenever I get together with old friends from Escondido, we often talk about how the foundation in English mechanics, writing, and literature we received in Mr. Georges' classes prepared us not only for college English courses, but also for clear thinking and writing in every other discipline as well as in life.
Dr. Steve Sangren, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University
Class of 1964

I was a young Vietnamese refugee when I started school as a senior at Escondido High in 1975. Having been in this country for barely a few months, I did not speak English well- more like not at all. Mr. Georges helped me a lot and even gave me some personal tutoring after school…he prodded me on and gave me that extra boost and encouragement. I am very honored to be one of Mr. Georges' students. He gave me both a foundation and a love for the English language.

Van-Anh Le

Class of 1976

I owe my career to Mr. Georges. Right now I am grading end of semester exams for graduate and undergraduate students. There is not one I read that I don't hear Mr. Georges' grammar rules in my head, such as "elements equal in thought must be equal in structure." The man lives!
Angharad Valdivia
Class of 1977


We (all five Sarno siblings) will always remember Mr. Georges with love and respect!
Tina Sarno Inscoe
Class of 1968


I had to talk my way into Mr. Georges' class because my language skills were not up to the challenge. I have always been thankful that he gave me the chance to try. My only regret is that he passed away before I could tell him how much I appreciated all I learned in his classes. I remember a poster he had on the wall that said (paraphrased): "Do not ask for lighter burdens, ask for a stronger back." It has been a long time, but I will never forget this great teacher.
Beth Calvert Wanberg
Class of 1968

I wrestled for Mr Georges for four years and had him for English for one year. I don't which was harder: one year of English or four years of wrestling. I guess the most I learned from him was how to be a good human being, honesty, and to treat others as you would want to be treated. I found out that these were his most important lessons. What a great man. It was my benefit having him as a mentor.
Jim Billotte
Class of 1955

Hard to imagine that an English teacher could change lives... but this man did. He did so much more than teach us grammar. He taught us to think, to question, to stretch our intellect. How blessed we were that he chose to devote his life to us.
Mary (Burns) Fenton-Lee
Class of 1964

My class only got to have Mr. Georges for one semester. The first semester he was recovering from his open heart surgery. In just the few short months I had him as a teacher, I learned study skills and writing techniques that got me through college and law school. He had an amazing ability to challenge a student and show that student exactly what he or she was capable of doing.
Linda Ray-McKenna
Class of 1978

Mr. Georges demanded excellence. He fired up our imaginations and taught us to excel. He made such an impression on my life. I have carried the love of the English language with me to this day. Thank you for that gift!
Kathy Peterson (Hagberg)
Class of 1976

Mr.Georges was by far the best teacher I ever had, including my college years at University of San Diego. He was tough but encouraging and a real "Renaissance man." I remember well placing number one out of my freshman class as USD on a standardized English exam they gave us at the beginning of the year, and I have no doubt it was due to the quality of his instruction and the CONSTANT repetition of diagramming those sentences! I remember the old phonograph playing in between passing periods as we entered 49A - especially the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B!" Great memories of a great man.......
Carol (DiStefano) Maletich
Class of 1977

Mr. Georges remains my favorite teacher and one of the main influences on my life. He expected the best from us, not for his own aggrandizement (he was probably the most humble man I ever met) but for our own benefit. The main message I took away from his classes was that if you have precision in expression, you will have precision in thinking. Even today I can't appreciate literature without remembering his lessons. How many teachers can still influence you some thirty-six years later? My whole life experience was enriched for my having been one of his students.
Frank Cone
Class of 1969

I don't think there has been a year in my life since having Mr. Georges that his memory hasn't influenced me in some way. Probably the greatest influence was in my career choice. I am now an educator (principal) in part because of my respect for him as well as other teachers that came into my life. What a blessing this man was to so many.
Leila VanderLyke Sackfield
Class of 1979

I loved Mr. Georges' classes. I am a lawyer today and have been known for my writing skills. Where did I develop these skills? As my mother would say, "Three guesses and the first two don't count."
Kathleen King Worthington
Class of 1964

Mr. Georges was a gem! I talk of him often, as I am now teaching full time. While I teach middle school science, we do the Greater San Diego Science Fair which includes a research paper. I could not have taught this without Mr. Georges teaching us. Thank you to a wonderful teacher!
Patricia Greeley Paluso
Class of 1966

I'm so happy to find and read this website. Beyond my immediate family, there was no single individual who so positively influenced my life as John Georges. I chose for myself a career in communications (Public Relations, freelance writing); there is no doubt that my profession -- and whatever skills I brought to it -- were result of John Georges' teaching. On my first day of Junior English in Room 49A, Mr. Georges read down the alphabetical list, taking roll. When he called my name, and I responded "Here!", Mr. Georges glanced over the top of his glasses at me and snarled "We're not going to have the same trouble with you that we had from your father, are we?" He was speaking of my dad Roy Hanscom, Class of '51. I don't think Mr. Georges ever forgot a student, nor underestimated his or her importance. And we all felt the same about him.
Tom Hanscom
Class of 1975

Thanks so much for this site. It brought back a lot of great memories. I think I spent three hours reading every item on the site the first time I visited. John Georges was the best teacher I ever had. I learned more in his class than in any other high school or college course. I have had other great teachers and professors, but none ever quite as good as Big John Georges... I have had many college courses in which much less was taught in a semester than he taught in a week. During my years as a science and math teacher Lincoln Middle School (formerly Vista High,) I modeled my teaching on his example. I was not half as good as he was, but I think I was at least twice as good as I would have been had I not had his example.
Peter Welch
Class of 1971

Today I make my living as a writer, and I find myself using the knowledge given to me by Mr. Georges literally every single day. I hope that when my daughter gets to high school, she is lucky enough to have a teacher as effective and influential as John Georges.
Anita Williams
Class of 1980

Mr. Georges was not just the best English teacher any of us ever had. He was a tough combat veteran, athlete, rugged physical presence and disciplinarian. He was also warm, sensitive and reflective -- a lover of the arts with deep spiritual convictions. He was all this without the self-absorption, vanity, and self-promotion we see in so many supposedly great and important people. In short, Mr. Georges was an ideal role model for a teenage boy who was always sizing up the men around him, consciously or subconsciously wondering what kind of man he could and should become. My world got vastly bigger after high school, but Mr. Georges remains a towering figure for me, and a model of what a man should be.
Brant Bassett
Class of 1967

What I find truly remarkable is the number of people whose lives were substantially impacted by Mr. Georges. He is one of the best friends I have ever known and the best teacher I have encountered.
Dr. David Sisson
Professor and Head, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
Oregon State University
Class of 1968

(Click on 49A Photo Album for a great picture of Dr. Sisson with Mr. Georges.)

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'Tis Education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd.

Alexander Pope
1688-1744