Monday, May 23, 2016

50 Years of Impact -- Mr. Bell

Mr. Bell's doesn't live in Benton County anymore - so I emailed him to see if we could get together virtually to share part of his story.  In true fashion, as a former English teacher, he felt most comfortable writing responses to my questions and then sending them in an email. The questions I asked of him are black and bold.  His responses are in black and mine are in blue.

Why did kids listen to you?   What do you feel your best lesson(s) to students was?  My evaluations from the several principals that I had at BC and four other educational institutions said that I had good classroom management skills. I never quite knew what that meant. I think it meant that I ran the show and the students knew it. That’s the way my generation was taught, so that is the way that I taught.
My best academic lessons to students were teaching them how to write concisely with supporting evidence or examples and to document their sources. My best life’s lessons were to work hard, to be on time, and do not run your mouth at me because it will not work – maybe at home, but not here.

My listening to Marv started in 7th grade.  He was our coach for Junior High Softball.  He knew the game and we knew he knew the game.  He wrapped a wet towel on his head when it was really hot out.  He taught me to how bunt and slide. I remember those drills and encouragement to “get it down” or “get down”. 

I rode my bike two miles to catch the bus for games and practices during these summers.  This didn’t happen every day, but with 9 kids in the house, if we wanted to get somewhere – we sometimes had to make arrangements on our own.  Mom didn’t have enough space on the family calendar to keep track of all our activities!

While I had Marv as a coach, my mom and I had a collision in the kitchen with hot gravy and coffee.  As a result of the collision, both of those hot liquids ended up on my right forearm.  Marv cleaned and wrapped my arm that softball season so I could play ball without the risk of infection. I don’t think most people would describe Marv as tenderhearted, but he was very careful with my arm.  I had him wrap and clean it because he was not quite as “rough” as my mom was.   

I also had Marv as a Composition teacher as a senior.  During this time, I was dating his oldest and only son.  That made for some interesting class time for me, not sure if the same is true for MarvJ

What is your best memory of your time at BC?  My best memory of BC is my students, the teaching staff, and the administration, all combined as one memory. BC was a great place for me to teach for 39 of my 47 years in teaching, and also for Sherry and me to raise our family.

One of my best memories of Mr. Bell’s as a student in his class was Mr. Bell being at the back door of his portable classroom and having a discussion with Mr. Logan as he hung out his 2nd story classroom window.  In my mind this happened quite frequently and was always entertaining, especially after Mr. Bell shut the door and made a few more comments Mr. Logan could not hearJ  
Mr. Bell 1981 Yearbook photo

What do you feel most proud of in life? I am most proud of my wife, Sherry, who made everything go so smoothly at home for our three children and me. Professionally, I am most proud of having been a teacher for 47 years.

Sherry is another shining example of the spouse who kept the family in-tact while their significant other gave so much to other people’s children.  I remember Sherry as a child-care provider to so many families and then as a food-service worker in our MS/HS kitchen.  I never remember seeing her without a smile on her face or a look of understanding in her eyes.  I have very fond memories of seeing her with other teachers and their spouses and families.   I truly believe they enjoyed each other’s company.  Many times one didn’t know which child belonged to which parent – you couldn’t tell because they were together often as families.  They helped raise each other’s children and developed some incredible adults and friendships.  I was and am fortunate to continue to be friends with many of their children. 

Marv & Sherry Bell with 1957 glove

What teacher in school made the most impact on you and why? This a tie between two teachers, the late Mrs. Opal Eckert and Mr. Larry Brennan. Mrs. Eckert was my composition and journalism teacher. She was demanding. She died a few years ago at age 100. She remains a legend in my home town to this day. She was selected as the outstanding high school journalism teacher in the United States when I was in college.

Mr. Brennan is 81 or 82, and we still communicate by email. He was my history teacher. He lives in Connecticut and is a great baseball fan. Mr. Brennan had Mrs. Eckert as a teacher, too. Mr. Brennan combined great teaching techniques with humor and baseball and related so well with students. As is Mrs. Eckert, Mr. Brennan is a legend with his former students.

Mr. Bell made an impact on me because he never wavered on the priority for learning.  I had trouble with where to put apostrophes and Mr. Bell used a name that I was familiar with to help me try and understand -- the Less family name.  This was not a one-time lesson – he was not going to give up on me.  I was going to learn! 

I did learn relationships with students are one of the most important things we can develop.  Students learn more from teachers they respect and Mr. Bell worked hard to earn the respect of his students.  I wrote a paper once about getting my first bra and Mr. Bell wrote on the top of my paper “An utterly ridiculous tale!” I don’t remember much feedback from all of the instructors I’ve had over all the courses I’ve taken.  But, I remember that comment!  What he taught stuck, not just for the test, but for life.
1979 Yearbook photo
What student/athlete made the most impact on you and why? I will not single out any one student or athlete because I had so many of them in my 47 years of teaching. However, as a group, the students who needed some help and teacher understanding stand out the most. I received the most pleasure and gratitude from those students who needed help in English and sometimes with life.

One of the most impact filled lessons Marv modeled for me as a co-worker was his willingness to work with me as a counselor helping problem solve for and with students, due to their choices or life circumstances.  Marv was demanding, but also incredibly compassionate.  He worked very diligently to make sure students understood the curriculum, but also had success, no matter what their abilities or life situation was. 

What was one of your most defining moments in your career at Benton? I remember too many to mention here. I loved teaching and seeing students learn and having success.

One of the defining moments we feel fortunate to have shared with Marv is he was the teacher of two of our three children.  Katie was a service learner for Marv and got a chance to learn from him, not just as a classroom teacher of Composition, but also as a teacher to students who school might not have been the most enjoyable part of their day.  They share a special story about a peppermint and a U.S. Marshall in the classroom.  Rachael was in the last class Marv taught at BC.  She had the opportunity to walk out of the gym from graduation to Marv’s favorite song, “Old Time Rock and Roll” and now loves to run to that song and that type of music.  Both of these daughters say they are better writers due to the instruction that took place in Mr. Bell’s classroom and Todd and I would agree with this as well for us as writers.

Marv & Sherry with their grandchildren

Why did you choose education as a profession and Benton as a place to work? I chose education as a profession because I had such wonderful teachers in elementary school, junior high school, and high school, although I did not think of that at the time I entered college. My college major was English because that had been my best subject in high school, and I had earned an “A” in each of my college freshman English composition courses. My minor was Athletic Coaching.

Marv also shared with me some other tidbits:
·         He started teaching in 1965 and taught at four high schools, one community college, and one state penitentiary. He taught at BC from 1969-2008.

·         He has a Master’s Degree, plus 42 post-graduate credits.
o   Marv encouraged the love of learning within me.  He was a sounding board for me as a counselor and administrator in the MS/HS.  When I would go to his classroom, he’d say, “Sit down Bridgie and have a mint” and if I listened closely, I would gain some valuable insights into what might have been troubling me at the time.  I very much appreciated his investment, time and encouragement of me. 

·         After retirement from BC in 2008, he taught for four years at a state penitentiary in NW Missouri.
o   Marv shared with me that the students he taught at the penitentiary were just as capable as many of the students he worked with in high schools and they needed and thrived with the discipline and high expectations he had of them. 
         To his former BC students, please remember the following:
o   Eat Krispy Kreme donuts and cheeseburgers.
§  Marv and I both have a hankering for a great cheeseburger.  We made it a tradition to go and have one before the start to the school year for several years we worked together.  I miss these times with him.
o   Turn up the volume for old-time rock and roll music.
o   And “We will learn our colors tomorrow.”

When I think the many connections in life, one that blows my mind having to do with Marv and my family is this.  Marv’s dad owned a jewelry store in Maryville, Missouri.  My dad grew up just north of Maryville and bought my mom’s wedding ring from Marv’s dad. 
In life, we may not know where our paths are going to cross or where our roots are going to land.  We just need to keep planting seeds to trees we may never sit under. 

I hope Marv knows that the shade from his tree is still providing a lot of inspiration for me in my work and life.  I miss his mints and words of wisdom, but I hope I’m able to share some of those same comforts with others who are now stopping by to chat with me.


  1. I found myself laughing in so many parts of this because I just could hear Mr. Bell and his jokes. Must says despite how strict he could be, I walked away with the best memories from his class! So happy I was able to have him as a teacher!

  2. Mr. Bell made a huge impact on my life. To this day, I still speak of him and my children know his name...even though they will not have him as a teacher. I owe alot to him!!!

  3. Mr. Bell was without a doubt one of the most impacting teachers I had. He taught me to take school more seriously just by not letting me slide in his class. I ran into him while in college and he asked what I was studying and I told him Equine Science, "you know like horse breeding," I said. He asked me if I used a step stool.