Many years ago, Mike Best taught me Grade 9, 10, and 11 English at Gonzaga. As I look back on those years, I realize most of the school curriculum was drudgery for me, very little was interesting. But his classes were different. From the excited way he walked into the classroom and introduced the topic of that day, to the way he pushed back the desks (unconcerned with the noise it made in moving them) so that we were positioned in a collaborative, horseshoe-shape. His class was a performance and Mike was the lead character.
He had an entertaining, captivating way of teaching us; somehow finding a way to even make Macbeth interesting to me. I very much looked forward to those classes and did fairly well. He often commented favourably on my work and was probably the first person to acknowledge I had a creative gift.
He also requested that I address the class, as class President, to talk about what had happened in the latest student council meeting, and would encourage students to ask me questions and to get involved in decisions they were being affected by. This taught me many things. To think on my feet, to take notes and listen intently during those student council meetings, and to speak up for things I believed in. In essence, it taught me about leadership.
Two points Mike always stressed with us in class that really resonated with me were: Make sure you know your priorities (I’ve used this a lifetime). And, know the value of five minutes. In business, I have accomplished so much in just five focused minutes.
Back then, he also registered me for Advanced English at Memorial University without me knowing. I was 16 when I started university. The last thing I wanted was ’advanced’ anything. I wanted simple. Easy. But he registered me, where I was taught by the famous, Al Pittman. Also attending that class was premier to be Brian Tobin among others. Al taught us how to think. Debate. Argue. Advanced English was definitely the right place for me.
Today, I largely make my living through creativity at m5, a company I started when I was just 24. A path that Mike Best started me on.
I would like to thank Mike for the positive impact he has had on my life. Now 59, and 35 years in business, I’m really glad I got to do something that I enjoy everyday and I can’t help but feel he was a significant part of that. So I thank him in the most honest and sincere way you can thank someone. I know I was just one of many, many students he taught, but I learned a lot from him, and probably the most important thing—I learned about myself.