A new teacher started in my school when I was in sixth grade. He taught seventh through twelfth grade so I didn't have much reason to interact with him. That was until softball season came around. He didn't live in the same small town as my school and he had a daughter the same age as me. Neither of our tiny towns had enough girls to field a softball team and he had the bright idea to combine the girls from each of our towns so that we could play. And that's when I got to know Mr. Ricky Block.
After that season, he noticed that a number of girls on the team had potential to play softball at a higher level. He approached a team in a town nearby and asked if we could come to the try out. They gave him a firm no. That didn't stop him, though. He decided to start his own team - a team that his daughter had no interest playing on - because he wouldn't allow a girl's potential to be limited by where she lived.
That first season was magical and the team he created blossomed into a powerhouse. Not only that, but it became a springboard for girls throughout rural Saskatchewan to play softball at a level they could have never dreamed of before. Some of us travelled to the United States to play ball; but, playing competitive ball wasn't the only gift he gave us.
For me, moving to the United States was the chance to grow into my own person. I quit ball and participated in show choir, conducted breast cancer research, interned at a pharmaceutical company, met my husband, graduated in Chemical Engineering, and started my own business. All of this happened because he wanted a bunch of twelve-year-old girls to have a chance to play ball.
But, Mr. Block wasn't just my coach. He was also my English teacher. I strongly disliked English and I never hesitated to let him know. "But you're such a great writer," he would say while I rolled my eyes. "Useless and boring," was always my rebuttal.
Earlier this week, I was substitute teaching in a fifth grade English class. They were learning predicates. "Pretty sure Mr. Block never taught us this," I thought. Although, I'm sure he did. I would have messaged Mr. Block later that day to give him grief, as usual. Except I couldn't - He died two days earlier.
That same fifth grade class was also interpreting poetry that day. It made me remember how Mr. Block used music to help us understand poetry: the symbolism, the figurative language, the creative use of rhythm and rhyme. I don't think I ever told him how much I enjoyed that. It would have destroyed my firmly held opinion that English was "useless and boring."
For the remainder of the day I reminisced about other ways he worked so hard to make learning "useless and boring" subjects fun and interesting. One of my favorites was "Jeopardy." He would split us into teams and we would compete by answering questions from different categories. All of the categories were related to the book we were reading in class. Mr. Block was also the computer teacher, which meant he always found ways to integrate elements from Computer class into English class. So of course, all of this was done in Powerpoint.
In true Mr. Block fashion, I created a template for you to create your own Jeopardy slide deck. It's my silly little way of remembering Mr. Block and everything he did for me in athletics, academics, and life. I think he would have gotten a kick out of it.