Last night the world lost a very precious person. No, you probably didn’t know him; you didn’t even know he existed. But to me, to his past student, he left an imprint on our hearts.I woke up this morning to learn that my high school math teacher, Mr. Bertoldie, passed away from a heart attack last night, he was only forty-one years old.
Now many of you might think, “Well that’s sweet, but he was just a high school math teacher.” However, to this small town girl, it wasn’t the case. When you go to school in a town where your graduating class is 44 students, teachers don’t just teacher, they nurture, they guide, they imprint on your lives. That was what Mr. Bertoldie did for me.When Mr. Bertoldie first arrived at my school, we students didn’t exactly make his life easy. We were loud and rambunctious to say the least. He would get angry with us and frustrated to the point of having to leave the room for a moment just to cool off. Looking back on those days, I smile but feel guilty at the same time.
I had always been passionate about math (to this day, I still). My junior year, I wanted to go further into more advanced math, but my desire to stay with my friends trumped that aspiration. So I went on to Mr. Bertoldie’s algebra class. A few months into my junior, Mr. Bertoldie approached me and asked me to help tutor some of his students who were struggling. This was a first for me, I never felt I was really good at anything, but here I was, being told I was good enough to teach. So I helped a few of his students and received A’s on everything I turned in (they would have been A+ but I was bad about showing my work because I could do it in my head. I can’t help but smile at how frustrated he would get with me “I know you know how to do it, but you have to show your work” he would say).He encouraged me to skip his class my senior year and move on to more advanced math classes with some of the other teachers. However, my fondness for his teaching skills had me return for algebra two. Again, he put me right to work helping tutoring students (and me still getting A-‘s because I refused to show my work). Then one day he approached me and told me that he would really like for me to go to math contest and represent him and my school. I was floored; no one had ever showed such faith in me before. But, again, I let the feelings of a so-called friend (who I later found was jealous) determine my actions and I so declined the offer.
Later, after the math competition, after I had finished a tutoring session with one of his students, he asked me why I hadn’t gone to math contest. I revealed to him the anger I received from my ‘friend’ when she heard the news of the offer. He sat me down and explained to me (which, as high school teenagers, is hard to realize) that I was made for bigger and better things than that small little town. That I was smart and I would go far in life; but only if I stopped worrying about making others happy and instead focusing on my own happiness.It has been 15 years this may since I walked across that stage and got my high school diploma, and to this day I remember his words. I went on to go to college and every one of my math professors would say “You must have had a really good math teacher in high school to know what you do.” And I would tell every one of them, “Yes, I most definitely did.”
I went on to build my own company, which I use my math skills every day to budget, and do the taxes for. Skills I never would have possessed without the knowledge that Mr. Bertoldie instilled in me. My biggest regret is that I didn’t tell him, and now I will never have the opportunity to do so.My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Bertoldie’s family. And if, by chance, God allows those that have gone to be with Him the opportunity to hear those thoughts and prayers, I would say this, “Thank you, Mr. Bertoldie, for having faith in me when I did not. Your knowledge and kindness will be forever carried in my heart, and the hearts of your many students.”