Alvin T. Simmons 1922-2010

A couple of weeks ago, I received word that one of the most amazing teachers I ever met had passed away. His name was Alvin Simmons and he taught me high school Chemistry and Physics at Mobile Christian School. But more than teaching me just those subjects, he taught me about what kinds of qualities make an exceptional teacher. Though he was in his 70’s when I had him, he was able to relate and empathize with all of us crazy teenagers. He never had a problem maintaining control or order of his students and even the “bad kids” seemed to respect him. He was an incredible teacher and incredible person. He is even the person who named this blog.

Below is the obituary that was run for him:


SIMMONS Mr. Alvin T. Simmons-A native of Alabama and a resident of Mobile, died on Saturday, January 16, 2010. He was born on January 5, 1922 in Monroeville, Alabama. He received his B.S. Degree from Livingston State College in 1953, and a Masters Degree from University of Alabama in 1971.

Mr. Simmons taught Physics and Chemistry in the Mobile County School System for 31 years. After retiring in 1984, he taught 10 years at Mobile Christian School.

He served in World War II in the Pacific. Mr. Simmons was an active member of Regency Church of Christ and a volunteer Treasurer for 40 years. He was preceded in death by his parents Alvin T. Sr., and Eva Simmons, two sisters, Berniece Gaston and Laura Kathryn Roth.

He is survived by his wife, Wilma Clark Simmons, of 49 years; one sister, Dorothy Zorn, Mobile, Alabama and two nephews, George and Travis Roth, Tampa, FL. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM from the chapel of Radney Funeral Home.

The family will receive friends at the funeral home 9:00 AM until service time. Interment will be in Magnolia Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Alzheimer's Association Research Fund or American Cancer Society.

Funeral arrangements by RADNEY FUNERAL HOME, 3155 Dauphin Street, Mobile, Alabama 36606.

Some of the memories I recall of him were his impeccable dress. He always wore a jacket and tie during every classroom session. His wife would coordinate his outfits and he would tell us that when she would go out of town, she would number the jacket, pants, and ties, and then leave him a key as to which numbers to associate for each day she was gone. The man always looked sharp.

I remember him relating a story from his public school days of a kid that was sitting by the window in the classroom on the first floor, and kept throwing things out of the window. After being told to stop repeatedly and not listening, Mr. Simmons tossed him out the window. Probably shocked the kid more than anything. I would say he didn’t throw things out of the window anymore after that. Unfortunately that kind of thing today would get you tossed from the school system, but back then was a different time, and it seemed like a perfect way to not hurt anyone but set the tone for the classroom and his expectations.

I still remember the “factor-label” method he used for diagramming out solutions to conversion problems and that in his class, there was much tasking of the students to show their solutions on the board to the rest of the class.

It is amazing to think of how many lives he touched after 41 years of teaching. It definitely showed me the wide reach teachers can have. Truly a noble profession to those that take it on.

The last time I saw Mr. Simmons was a couple of years ago at my grandmother’s funeral (they attended the same church). He still had an incredible, witty personality. He seemed thrilled that I ended up with a minor in Chemistry from college and that my future aspirations involve a Ph.D. and teaching at the college level.

He was truly a man that lived a good life and left the world a much better place than he found it. Definitely a life that can be an inspiration to us all. Thank you, Mr. Simmons, for all of the lessons and the ability to continue teaching me even now after you are gone.

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