“Really, Jacob?” is a question I am all too familiar with. It’s a line Mr. Schlitt, my high school physics and woods teacher, and a tennis coach, has said a countless times because of my sarcasm and joking.
In school, I struggle to pay attention especially during 80 minute physics lectures. Mr. Schlitt is not what you would picture a tennis coach would look like. He looks more like a football coach the players do not want to push.
I excel in hands on projects and activities in school. I have taken seven shop and auto classes and received an A in each. When it comes to functions and biology, I struggle. So when I found out about the specialized physics class that uses projects rather than test, I signed up.
Throughout the year, we created projects. The end of the semester was approaching and I was doing just fine in the hands on part, but physics is difficult. I asked Mr. Schlitt if he could help me.
“Of course Jacob, when are you free?” He adjusted his schedule to fit with mine and we met five or six times.
The following year, I had him again for woods and this is a place where my skills are impressive. He was teaching me things before the rest of the class, things the rest of the class was never going to learn, and the background to the brand new CNC machine that only a handful of students have used.
I loved learning skills I could do with my hands. Then Mr. Schlitt wanted to teach the whole class how to use the CNC machining and not the physical part, but online. At first I was understanding and thinking this will take a day or two. After our second week doing it, my patience had run out. I was irritated, and annoyed because in a class I was used to having a 100 percent, I now had a C-.
I remember one day I came into the class especially mad. I timed Mr. Schitt's talk at the beginning of class. After he was done, I walked up to him showing the time and shaking my head. I continued to do this for four classes. Any other teacher would be irritated with the student complaining about them talking not doing the work.
I had become so irritated one day I came up with an idea. “Mr. Schlitt,” I said in front of the class. “I am going to drop this class.” I was persistent on how much I hated not working with my hands and that I was done.
He turned around with sorrow dripping off of his face. He squeaked out, “Jacob, I don’t want you to leave my class. What do I have to do to for you to stay?”
This threw me off. I never would of guessed after all the disrespect I had given him, he would want me to stay in his class.
The following days, I thought about this in other classes. I thought How could someone be treated so poorly by someone but then beg them to not leave? Only Mr. Schlitt would do that.
I started coming into class with a different attitude. I listened to his talks and after each one he would come over to me to make sure it was not too long. I was working on the work but since I did not listen to him for the longest time, I had no idea what I was doing. He saw I was struggling so he pulled a stool up and said “Let’s get to work” and proceeded to reteach me everything that I missed.
This was one of the most defining moments from my senior year of high school. I did so much thinking about what kind of person I wanted to be. Did I want to be the person that is rude to others or a Mr. Schlitt? I want to be like him. He is a husband, father, coach, and my favorite teacher ever. Thank you, Mr. Schlitt.
If my friends told me I would play tennis in high school, I would have called them crazy. That feeling changed as I walked towards Arrowhead High School Court One with Luke and Sam.
Luke told me, “He is a great coach and just makes tennis fun.”
Sam described him as, “Just a fun coach. Makes drills interesting and makes everything a game.”
What they left out was that he cares and knows all of his athletes. His name was Mr. Schlitt. He was tall, dark hair, fairly broad shoulder, and always had a smile on his face.
I got to the court and put my shoes on. He came over and looked me in the eye, shook my hand and asked me who I was. He cared to know who I was; this made me feel like I belonged.
During the school year, I saw him a couple of times a week (at practice, a match, or at school). He was an engineering and manufacturing teacher and I could potentially have him as a junior or senior. He asked me how the season was going and how I was doing. I appreciated how he went out of his way. The season was great. I won and learned a lot. I knew that this was the perfect sport for me.
I decided I would do a tennis camp that summer. I saw him standing with a smile on his face excited for what was to follow. He then talked and explained what we were doing and every time he tried and makes us laugh.
As we got more into the summer, the weather got hotter and more humid. I joked, “I think it is too hot to play today.”
He heard me and yelled back, “You will be fine, Zirgibel.”
Every day the rest of that summer, I joked about the weather. The next time he beat me to it and said to me, “How’s the weather today, Zirgibel?”
I responded trying to make him laugh. Every single time I got a smile. And every time he smiled, it put a smile back on my face. It just meant a lot that he cared and thought I was funny.
The first day of senior year, I walked into the woodshop with a smile on my face because I knew I was walking into Mr. Schlitt’s cabinet-making class. Every day I would walk in and be the first one there. We had fun conversations about how life was going or what I needed to get done for that day. I was grateful for this as it made my day start off good and this helped me the rest of the day.
I never got to explain how grateful I was because I joined tennis sophomore year. I got to meet a teacher and coach who cared about me and made sure I was doing well. He helped me realize how much the little things meant. Just saying hello and making sure everyone was doing well.
Thank you, Mr. Schlitt.