Happy 91st Birthday Les Winters  - A Most Memorable and Inspiring Math Teacher

Dear Mr. Winters,

You may not remember me, but I remember you. I was a student in your Algebra 2 class at Kennedy High School, sometime around 1978. Despite earning good grades in just about every subject, math clearly was not a strong suit for me. You invited me to come into office hours before school and during other breaks to get extra help, and I showed up like a champ.

You did, too.

Did I come to some sort of mastery around Algebra 2?

Well, not really.

Despite my best efforts…

Despite our collective best efforts …

The best grade I could earn that semester was a D.

What made that grade particularly memorable for me was that I also earned the E E right next to it.

Those were E's for effort and cooperation, I think.

This gal did her best.

I remember you telling me that the grading standards at the time were to give D students S's or U's for satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

You broke the rules when you bestowed a DEE on that particular report card.

I was college bound and knew that having a D on my academic record was not going to do me any favors. That's why I enrolled in another Algebra 2 session with Mrs. Black perhaps a year later.

Maybe it was time passing. Maybe there was some sort of perspective shift that went on in my head. Maybe it was one of those times when having more time with the material would ultimately make the difference.

The good news is I managed to earn a B in that session of the class by putting forth excellent effort and doing my best to cooperate. That did some good for my GPA.

When all was said and done, I was accepted to U.C. Berkeley. There I took some more math classes like trigonometry and calculus and managed to see my way through. After my second year, I transferred to California State University, Northridge.  There were a host of classes like finance, accounting, and production operations management that game me a run for the money.  Here again, I applied excellent effort and cooperated to the best of my ability to come to reasonable mastery over the material.  In 1984, I earned my bachelor of science degree in business administration with a marketing option.

It's fair to say that the marketing part of business has been good to me.

All these many years later, the math piece is still not easy or intuitive for me.

Still, I have very fond memories of the times we spent together, working the problems and trying to turn on the light to my understanding.

The effort and cooperation portion of the equation has served me well.  After all, how we do anything is ultimately how we do everything in life and in work.

Thanks for going the extra mile for me as one of the most patient, caring teachers I was lucky enough to study with.

I wish you a very happy birthday that can be celebrated knowing that the impact you made on me and hundreds or thousands of students over the years is still being keenly felt, deeply appreciated, and fondly remembered.

At the end of the day, it all adds up to a remarkable impact, and that's a beautiful thing to honor on the occasion of your 91st birthday.

If you are a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School and remember Mr. Les Winters, please chime in and share a fond memory that can bring a smile his way.