Mr. Traylor may have been the most likable teacher at Sunny Hills. That’s how kind and warm he was, and that’s the measure of his gentle, homespun sense of humor.
I think maybe he was the best and most skillful teacher I ever had, judging by the sure, methodical way he taught us Algebra 2: step by step, one thing after another, perfectly clear, demonstrated on the blackboard. He made us feel proud.
Mr. Traylor was a graduate of Valparaiso College in Valparaiso, Indiana, his home state. He was a born teacher.
From the moment we entered his classroom, he kept us under his benevolent spell. (How he’d smile to read that .. ) He had a way of blending a complex subject with a friendly, warm dialogue that involved us.
All these teachers I’m mentioning cared about every last student in their classes, and went to lengths to reach every one. Mr. Traylor knew that mathematics was fearful to many of us, and that many of us were convinced we wouldn’t be any good at it. Day after day, he showed us how it worked, often with humor to ease the way.
And was he funny! I remember whenever someone got an answer that was wildly off — let’s say 3.46 when the answer is 2.46, Mr. Traylor would say:
“But what’s 1.0 among friends?”
It was OK to be wrong in Mr. Traylor’s classes, as long as you were learning. I mean not on his tests, though ..
Sometimes he was a little like Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain when he’d make an example:
“Suppose a farmer gets 25 miles to the gallon in his truck ..”
Once I ran into Mr. Traylor a good twenty years after my last class with him, in 1987. The setting was a health convention at the Long Beach Arena. I looked to my left and saw Mr. Traylor twenty feel away, approaching with his family. I walked toward him and said, “Mr. Traylor!”
He pointed at me and said, “Paul Saevig, Algebra 2, First row, center!”
We laughed and shook hands.
In May or June of one year at Sunny Hills, Mr. Traylor knew a lot of us seniors were worried about starting college. He told us:
“Here’s a way to make sure you don’t wash out of college. Take notes on every class, and at the end of the day, review all your notes. Once a week on Friday, review all your notes for the whole week. If you do that, you won’t wash out.”
In the way he spoke to people with respect and affection, in the way he conducted himself with quiet dignity, never taking himself too seriously, we could see every day what a fine man Mr. Traylor was.
After all, the purpose of high school is not merely to impart information to the students. The purpose is also to help them learn to be together, to socialize in acceptable ways, and to communicate with each other. Implicit in that is character. Mr. Traylor was a wonderful example to us.