An Ode To A Teacher: Mr. Tim Altis
There are many who look back at their days of school and think about what their teacher or teachers taught them. I really think I was blessed with some great teachers in the Knob Noster School system, when I graduated from there in 1996. While that was 18-years ago, I can still remember going through the halls and hearing the booming voice of Mr. Tim Altis. I learned that Mr. Altis passed on this weekend and I consider him one of my favorite teachers. Mr. Altis taught social studies classes and I was lucky enough to have him for not just history, but also contemporary issues.
There are teachers that teach by the book and then there is teachers that were like Mr. Altis, who taught by the book, but also applied everything he could to make sure a student could learn better. He had a way of grabbing you into his world and if there was something that you had a question about, you could ask and he'd make his best attempt to answer it. History afterall, wasn't just about what was in textbooks and he certainly had his fair share of projects.
There are several projects I most remember. When history books seemed to just stop, Mr. Altis kept going. When we got to World War 2, he challenged us to interview a World War 2 Vet. I decided to interview my Great Uncle Jim Lafata. I never knew he was a vet until this interview. I learned so much about his service in Indo China. I became especially greatful for this experience, because about 2 or 3 years later, my Great Uncle developed alzheimer's and I was able to document some of that experience before he forgot about it. If it weren't for that class, I wouldn't have known even the family history.
Another well known and loved project was his "We Didn't Start The Fire" project, where he challenged us to find all the events linked to the lyrics to this Billy Joel song. When I did that project, the internet was still not as full of information and you had to actually go into magazine articles, Encycolopedia Brittanica or good ole microphiche to find everything. I think I got a 97 on that project, but man that was fun. Everytime I hear that song, I think of him.
I I did end up getting him again my Senior year, when I decided to drop one class and go to Contemporary Issues. He challenged us to watch the news, read the newspaper, follow what's going on in the world. He'd start off each day by asking what was hot in the news and we'd debate it or talk about items. We even got to tour a prison to show us what happens there.
One thing I never remember Mr. Atlis doing is, I don't recall him ever saying my first name. It was always Mr. or Ms. to everyone in the class. I would have thought with the last name of Sokolowski, he'd say Mr. Doug or Doug.
I loved how he took an interest in students. I was involved in drama and remember he loved the Diary of Anne Frank production we did. He was very complimentative and encouraging, not just to me, but the whole cast. He loved and lived history, afterall. Another life lesson was just before prom, he reminded the guys in the class, just how much you're supposed to tip the waiters and waitresses. Nothing like life lessons from Mr. Altis.
In the years after high school, I'd stop by the school and trade him some stories that I came across as a budding journalist and he did share them with class.
I still miss when I was a library aide and would walk the halls and he'd say "Mr. Sokolowski, shouldn't you be in class?" I'd just say, I'm going to take something to the library and he'd smile. One year, I had a locker across from his classroom and he'd say move along if you were running late to the next class.
The last memory I had of him in school was his annual message to the Seniors, he'd either read 'Forever Young' from Bob Dylan if I recall or 'The Places You will Go' from Dr. Seuss. He was always a kid at heart and had a great laugh, but I remember he'd tear up on Forever Young.
The last time I saw Mr. Altis was two years ago and he still called me Mr. Sokolowski, but he along with many teachers that I had, will always be with me. If it weren't for his interest and excitement for teaching history and news, I wouldn't be the newsguy that I am now and I'm sure many students of his can share similar stories.
I'd love to hear from students that had him. Let me know your favorite Mr. Altis story. Feel free to comment with your favorites.
Dr. Kristee Lorenz, the superintendent of Knob Noster also expressed these sentiments:
It is with a heavy heart that I share the sad news of the passing of Mr. Tim Altis on Sunday, November 2, 2014. Tim retired from KNHS after the completion of the 2012-2013 school year. I remember Tim's enthusiasm in making history come to life for his students. His booming laugh filled the halls of KNHS as he touched many student and staff lifes' sharing history and life lessons. Tim coordinated the Christmas Family project each year at KNHS. I will miss my big hearted friend and colleague. Please join me in keeping Sherry, Daniel, Samuel, Jill, and the rest of his family in our thoughts and prayers.
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Tim Altis are under the direction of the Mount Moriah and Freeman Funeral Home in Kansas City, MO. Visitation services will be held on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at the funeral home with the time to be determined. Funeral services will be held on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 3:30 p.m. in the Knob Noster High School Gym. Memorial donations have yet to be determined. I will forward additional information once it is received from the family.
Now just for memory sake, I play this one for you Mr. Altis and my thoughts are with Mrs. Altis, who is also a teacher at Knob and her friends and family at this time.
And yes this one too!