In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I would like to take a moment to recognize Troy Potter, an inspiring teacher at Saint Charles High School in St. Charles, Michigan. Mr. Potter was my physics and chemistry teacher from 1989-1992, as well as my basketball coach in middle school.
Imagine being a teacher and walking into the chemistry lab only to see the room engulfed with the sight of black smoke and the smell of burnt oil due to a chemistry reaction gone wrong. While most teachers would have screamed at their student, Mr. Potter kept it cool without having to say much for me to get the point that I screwed up. In fact, 20+ years later, we still laugh about it.
What I enjoyed the most was his passion for teaching science and how he made it fun. He instilled analytical thinking beyond the material in the textbook in a way that opened up my eyes to what science was and more so, the endless opportunities of where it could be in the future. Our class projects fostered creativity and imagination, which is a valuable freedom to be empowered with as a kid, so long as our results were close to the targeted metrics needed. Towards that end, I learned early on what it meant to have integrity in my data collection, how to think outside the box and how to persevere until I got things right. I worked very hard to earn my "A," but thanks to the patience of my teacher, I was given a second and third chances to prove I understood the material. The lesson that would carry with me through life was that grades were important, but not as important as the knowledge.
Mr. Potter nicknamed me "Co" after the 27th element Cobalt, which is similar to my last name, Koboldt. In fact, he still calls me this and every time he does, it makes me smile. How could I not be grateful for a caring teacher who lifted me up daily and gave me confidence that I could one day go to college and achieve something positive with my life? Being a young kid from a small town who didn't have much direction, he said, "Hey Co! You are pretty good at Physics, Chemistry and Math. Why don't you look into chemical engineering?" So I did. I later switched from engineering to analytical chemistry, earning my bachelors degree from Michigan State University. Years later, I would earn my MBA from Pepperdine University and a certificate from USC. The lesson was that education doesn't stop; it's a life-long pursuit.
I have an amazing blessed life in California and while I've earned my way up the corporate ladder holding executive positions such as vice president, director of operations and COO, I never forget where I came from and those that helped me along the way, especially my teachers. I recently paid for a brick to be placed in the Michigan State University section at the front of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California to honor Mr. Potter and another excellent teacher, Mr. Doug Holem. It reads "For my teachers... St. Charles, MI... Holem & Potter."
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Geoff Koboldt is a social entrepreneur living a charged life in Los Angeles. He is a consultant and advisor to young business entrepreneurs in the lean startup space, as well as a senior operations executive. He serves on the board of directors for Michigan State University's LA Spartans. Follow: Linkedin Google+