Monty Pope – Teacher and Mentor

18 Jun

A few days ago, I had lunch with Monty Pope. Most of you have never heard that name, but please allow me to introduce him. Monty recently retired from a long career teaching history that began in the public schools of Nashville and ended at Cumberland University.

I was working on a Master’s degree when I first met Monty. He was offering a class on Historical Geography, and I needed to fulfill some hours. It turned into a class that I will always remember. Monty took us on a tour of the town that I grew up in and, through architectural styles, showed us when and how the town developed. Riding on that van, I had no idea that Monty and I would teach together for over a decade.Monty Pope

When I was hired, I did not know what I was doing. I had never taught a class. I had never made out a syllabus. I had no notes from which to lecture. Luckily, Monty was there to be a mentor and show me the way. Simply, he taught me how to teach.

Monty taught me that there is more to the job than talking about history in a classroom. We are to be mentors to the students just as he was a mentor to me. We are to help students when they have problems. We are to be advisors and counselors.

As I type those words, something should be clear. Certainly, we are to be academic advisors and counselors, but we are to be ready to face other issues. What do we do when a student comes to us crying because a family member has passed away? What do we do when a student is pregnant and expecting during finals week? What do we do when a student asks for advice because they lost their job?

Monty taught me that we advise students in history, but we also advise them in life. Monty taught me that we should go by the book, but, sometimes, situations arise that the book does not cover.

Monty taught me how to teach, but, more importantly, he taught me how to be a teacher.

Monty also taught me History. I have been enrolled in countless history classes, but my only class with Monty was the one I mentioned. However, I learned more History sitting in Monty’s office than I did in most of those classes.

He is a Jacksonian and knows as much about Andrew Jackson and Tennessee history as anyone. His tales of the old days in this area are fascinating. Monty can weave a historical narrative better than anyone I have ever known. His secret, perhaps, is that he never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. As I have heard many times, a Pope has been at every significant event in American history.

Monty has taught thousands of students through the years, and each one of them could write a post about him. I am certain that the vast majority of them would say the same thing. Monty was their history teacher, but he was also their mentor.

15 Responses to “Monty Pope – Teacher and Mentor”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong June 18, 2014 at 22:47 #

    One great teacher can change the course of a life. I’m glad to meet the one who was there for you 🙂

    • Rick June 18, 2014 at 22:55 #

      I can only hope that can affect the lives of my students in the same way.

  2. DyingNote June 19, 2014 at 03:50 #

    It’s sad that in my country the teacher has fallen from the exalted position of teacher-parent-God (we have Sanskrit hymns to that effect) to the current state of mild disdain at best and derision at worst (not always, but still that’s the state of affairs in general). Although I’ve never been formally/professionally a teacher, I’ve always enjoyed teaching whenever the opportunity has presented itself – and sometime even when it has not, I’ve created it – and I hope to be able to do that for a long time.

    Lots of respect for what you and people like Mr. Pope do, Rick.

    • Rick June 19, 2014 at 04:04 #

      Thank you. Why has the teaching profession fallen in your country?

      • DyingNote June 19, 2014 at 04:27 #

        That will be a long discourse, Rick 🙂 It’s an entire study on the fall of a nation. A centuries-long succession of the marauding hordes, militarily mighty but culturally not quite there ,and the resultant imposition of their values on the ‘natives’ that were easy ‘prey’, being disorganised and insular as a result of their own perception of cultural superiority. We were never united and so were an easy and very rich picking. And then an extremely primitive and narrow-minded false ‘return’ to cultural roots as a whiplash effect to counter ‘foreign’ forces made it worse. Of course, repeated pillaging and looting of the nation’s riches had its own detrimental effect. And we had ourselves to blame for it largely. Sounds familiar?

        To keep it short, there was an overall fall in standards in all aspects of life and so fell that of teaching too. In a nation that struggles to even a moderate standard of living, a very low paying teaching profession is generally the last resort of the educated masses. Ergo, incompetent and ill-suited candidates for the post. It’s changing slowly though and more people who care about and love teaching are getting into it and one’s thankful for that.

        All of this should be quite familiar, Rick. We’re seeing this even now all around our world. This is broadly how civilizations and nations fall. I just commented on Colemining’s post on something related. For all that I believe that we are better equipped now than before to rise.

  3. Frankie June 25, 2014 at 17:17 #

    Love that Mr. Pope!!!! He was a great professor, and so are you!!! I miss those days sometimes. I have such fond memories of your class and Mr. Pope’s class!!!

    • Rick June 26, 2014 at 02:30 #

      Thanks. I just keep telling the same stories. Everyone tells me that you are a great teacher.

  4. Rick January 6, 2015 at 02:39 #

    Reblogged this on Surrounded By Imbeciles and commented:

    Several months ago, I wrote this about my mentor and friend. As we prepare for school to begin, I am inspired to reblog this post. It is about a great man and a great teacher.

  5. Andrew Petcher January 6, 2015 at 07:46 #

    I remember a favourite professor from Cardiff University. Specialist subject modern Spanish history. He used to finish a lecture with the words – ‘If you want to know more then you will have to buy my book’!

    • Rick January 6, 2015 at 14:05 #

      That’s a good way to end a class. I’m surprised he didn’t make you buy his book.


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