The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Mr. James Taylor

Posted on September 8, 2011


By Jessica Bellis, Guest Writer

The year was 1912. The Titanic sank, but Mr. James Taylor, the only

Mr. Taylor was always trying to help students understand the language, even if that took longer than expected. Photo by Mr. Ken Rodoff

person born aboard the great ocean liner, swam safely to America.

Once he arrived, he educated himself by walking laps around a school each day. Although he never entered the school, he earned ten advanced degrees.

Eventually, he met his overweight, Japanese wife, Ping-Pong. Together, they set up a lovely box under the 309 Expressway, where they lived for years with their countless children and little money.

For their vacations, Mr. Taylor piled sand next to the bathtub and called it the beach. With no phone, he was difficult to contact; however, if you yelled as loud as you could and were lucky – and he was available – he responded with a jovial “Yes, please.”

Recently, Mr. Taylor must have come into some money, as he was able to purchase plastic to protect the family box. Additionally, he bought his youngest son his own little box. He often talked about how it provided the rest of the family more space, which gave him more room to house his Louis Vuitton suits and alligator shoes. Oh how we loved this box-dwelling, soul-singing, storytelling model of class.

Group work in Mr. Taylor's classroom was as fun as it was educational. Photo by Mr. Ken Rodoff

On a more serious note, I was reminded of the true mentor that Mr. Taylor was to me just after his death.

“Un, deux, trois, chanter! Allons enfants de la Patrie…” For two weeks straight, Mr. Taylor, screamed these words at our class as we learned the French National Anthem. A complete waste of time.

Fast forward six months. Five hundred campers celebrate Bastille Day in a dining hall in Orson, Pennsylvania. The music begins, and I hear, “Allons enfants de la Patrie…” Without a thought, I start singing along. As I sing, I thanked Mr. Taylor for giving me cultural knowledge.

Mr. Taylor taught me that although I may not recognize an activity or lesson’ s importance in the moment, somewhere down the road the knowledge will prove useful.

More important than learning a foreign language, Mr. Taylor taught me

Photo by Mr. Ken Rodoff

invaluable life lessons. From him, I learned to respect myself and others. His respect for others and their differences became clear when he started our school’ s annual Diversity Day, a day when our high school celebrates the diversity within its small community. Observing him do this, I realized the importance of loving each other for who we are, no matter how different we may be.


Photo by Mr. Ken Rodoff

Mr. Taylor also instilled in me the value of patience and kindness. When we did not get the material, he was patient with us. If necessary, he happily took time out of his lunch period to tutor students. When we would still answer incorrectly, he would use humor to diffuse the situation. His laughter-filled teaching approach made students more comfortable and more likely to participate because they did not fear being exposed or taunted for ignorance. All of this light-hearted banter made me realize how much easier and more enjoyable life and learning are while having fun.

Photo by Mr. Ken Rodoff

One of the most important lessons Mr. Taylor taught me was the importance of being optimistic. He was the person I went to when I was frustrated with my schedule, assignments, or life in general. No matter how bad the situation proved to be, Mr. Taylor never failed to remind me that things will turn out for the best.

His true optimism shone even as he became ill. He smiled and laughed, and came to school, until he physically could no longer.

Photo by Mr. Ken Rodoff

Mr. Taylor inspired me to never let anything bring me down and make sure I think positively. Because of him, I now go through my days realizing that, as bad as something may be, it will always get better.

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