It’s been 22 years since I sat in his classroom, but the impact that Jack Rice had on my life transcends time and space. His kind nature, his laid-back presence, his willingness to take that extra moment for each student. These are the reasons that any person who ever stepped foot in his classroom was one of the luckiest.
In the opening of each “Twilight Zone”, Rod Serling exclaims “A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.” That is what each day in one of Mr. Rice’s classes were; A journey into the imagination. There was no such thing as a stupid idea, or a comment too silly. Every student had a voice and most of all, each of us had his respect (and he ours). At the age of 13, this was extremely uncommon. No one gave hormonal 13 year olds the time of day, but Mr. Rice gave us that and so much more. He gave us a platform to think outside the box, to question authority, to seize the day, to consider our more “revolutionary sides.” This showed not only in his demeanor but also in the literature and material he chose to share with us.
If this post has not given it away yet, he turned me into a massive Twilight Zone fan. He also sparked my interest in my favorite American Authors, Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 was a feast for the senses, a futuristic take on censorship in the U.S.- and something that has become incredibly realistic as the years go on. Reading that novel was a starting point for me. I wrote my college thesis on censorship in America citing Fahrenheit, as well as a number of other works. Expressing my disdain for these types of institutions and beginning my journey as an activist. I ended up graduating with a degree in Sociology with a concentration in socio-economic inequality.
So now here I am, 22 years later, a mother of two, raising my own little activists (though I wish our 5 year old would question some authority other than her Mother…) and I am constantly reminded of how I came to be this way. Mr. Rice was not the only one who got me here. My parents taught me to never be a shrinking violet, and that it was ok to be the squeaky wheel as long as you did it diplomatically and were not hurting anyone. But truthfully I never felt so energized to look beyond my imagination, and to find a better way than when in his class. I continue to keep his memory with me. I often wonder what he would think about all of the positive activism that we are seeing- I think he would be so pleased. Especially knowing that many of his former students are on the front lines, leading the charge.
Those 50 minutes a day for that one year in the 8th grade- it was the best class I ever had. Thank you Mr. Rice, wherever you are- for giving me the starting point of my passions and for influencing my imagination to know no bounds. Thank you Janine for sharing him with so many of us. We all miss him so much.