01 March 2014

Tapa Gümnaasium 95

Yes, of course, Estonians celebrate birthdays every year. However, every five years, they really celebrate. Every 10 years, they really, really celebrate - so much so that birthdays at 10, 20, 30, 40, etc. years of age are called a juubel (think jubilee, or the bakery that used to be in Carlinville).

Estonian institutions are no exception. In March 2009, I was privileged to be a part of Tapa Gümnaasium's 90th anniversary celebration, held, as always, at the school. I had survived two academic years by then. I was "over the moon" to learn that many of the students I had taught for a semester in 1999 as a Peace Corps volunteer still remembered me. At some time during the evening of the class reunions, though, a corpulent, elderly Estonian women chided me for walking through the school's corridor with a glass and a bottle of wine in my hands. Apparently, I had exceeded the limits of really, really celebrating.

In March 2014, the school celebrated its 95th anniversary. (Watch a 12-minute video of the highlights of the three-day celebration here and get a real taste of Estonian folklore and tradition.) Unfortunately, I was not in Tapa in person, but I appeared in print in Meie Koolmeistrid (page 224), the commemorative book that was published and included the kind words of Rita Püümann, a fellow English teacher. Below are her remarks in the book, which Google and I translated into English.

Meie Koolmeistrid
Our Faculty, literally Our School Masters

On inimesi kes töötavad oma elust vaid mõned aastad õpetajana aga neid mäletavad nii õpilased kui ka kolleegid eredate tähtedena. Selline oli ka inglise keele õpetaja Kevin Hogan, kes tuli meile kaugelt Ameerikast ja on nüüd oma sõnade järgi Eestist sõltuvuses. Mis tegi Kevini nii eriliseks õpetajaka? Arvan, et tean vastust.

There are people from our life who work for only some years as a teacher but they are remembered by students and colleagues as shining stars. Such a person was English teacher Kevin Hogan, who came to us from America afar, and now he is addicted to walking the talk of Estonia. What made Kevin such a special teacher? I think I know the answer.

See oli inimlikkus kõige laimas tähenduses ja äärmiselt hea lastetuba. Kui praegu küsida õpilastelt, keda ta õpetas põhikoolis, mille poolest õpetaja Hogan erines teistest õpetajatest, siis vastavad nad sageli, et ei oska täpselt öelda, aga ta oli nii sõbralik, hooliv ja mõistis tunnis nalja teha. 

He was the best of humanity, challenging what is considered an exceedingly good children's room [a probably grossly inaccurate translation]. If today you ask the students whom he taught in elementary school what about Mr. Hogan was different from the other teachers, they often respond that they cannot say exactly but that he was very friendly, caring, and he made learning fun.

Ei ole just palju niisuguseid õpetajaid, kes suudavad õpilaste huvid oma isiklikest huvidest kõrgemale tõsta, aga Kevin suutis. Näiteks võttis lapsed sappa ja põrutas Londoni, korraldas keelelaagri või käis lihtsalt ekskursioonidel kaasas Eestimaad avastamas. Kolleegina iseloomustaksin ma teda kui abivalmit, äärmiselt viisakat, seiklushimulist ja tarka meest. Sellist inimest oodatakse tagasi ja olenemata vahemaadest on ta sina jaoks alati olemas.

There are definitely not many teachers who are able to put students’ interests above their own, but Kevin did. For example, he identified children and introduced them to London [another inaccurate translation], organized language camps, or simply went along on excursions to discover Estonia. As a colleague, I characterized him as a helpful, extremely polite, adventure-loving, and smart man. One would wait the return of such a person, and regardless of the distances he is always there for you.