While I would consider my parents the two most influential people in my life, I have been blessed by the staggering amount of amazing teachers I have had the pleasure of learning from.

From Nolanville Elementary to Eastern Hills Middle School and, finally, Harker Heights High School, I can look back and remember a teacher or coach who touched my life and helped shape me into the man I am today.

The teacher I think about most often is my fifth grade teacher, James Grissom. I first met him when I was in second or third grade. He wasn’t my teacher at the time, but word traveled quickly around school that he was the coolest teacher ever.

The man had to be the most popular guy on campus. You either wished he was your teacher, or you thanked the lord that you were one of the chosen few to sit in his class. He was funny, engaging and had a teaching style so unique that he could make the most boring subjects come alive.

I was lucky. Fifth grade rolled around and I discovered I was in Mr. Grissom’s class. I instantly knew it was going to be the best year ever, and I wasn’t wrong.

One thing I learned fairly quickly was that he was kind of a maverick; he liked to do his own thing. While other classrooms stayed inside and did everything by textbooks, he brought us outside once in a while. Sometimes we studied the fossils that littered the school campus and other times we looked at the sun, moon or constellations with his high-powered telescope.

While it might not sound like much, this was so exciting to the fifth-grade me. I ate it up. I learned everything I could about the constellations in our night sky and started a mini fossil collection.

Yes, I was a little bit of a nerd back then. But I wouldn’t change it for anything.

After leaving his class, I still thought about Mr. Grissom quite a bit. Friends and I would trade stories about how fun and exciting it was to learn from him. He truly made a lasting impression on me.

Sadly, in 2011 I got an unexpected call from my mother saying he died. Hearing the news saddened me, of course, but I ended up smiling as I thought back on all of the wonderful memories I had of that year in his classroom.

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