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Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I was changed for good
There are people in your life who change everything. Maybe you know them for years, for days, or just one passing conversation, but they are a pivot point, maybe even an epiphany.
Wes (Wacko) Warner was one of those people for me.
He taught me chemistry and physics along with my classmates, but he also offered a calculus class to two of us in his one free period, and at the end of my senior year, he acquired a college biochemistry text and met me before school a couple times a week to start working through it. He even let me use the lab to pull micro needles and micro pipettes for my ill-fated attempt at cloning frogs for Advanced Bio.
More than the academics, though, was the respect he had for our minds. We weren’t problematic teenagers, we were thinkers. He introduced us to Tom Lehrer. He made time at the beginning of class for any questions or comments we had about current events, including the time I brought an article about sodomy being illegal in many states and ranted about government having no legitimate interest in the sexual relations between consenting adults. He did not shut down the conversation as inappropriate, but listened as he always did, with his eyes narrowed and focused, head cocked slightly to the side like one of his beloved dobermans.
Once we asked him, “Why are you here? You could be teaching at a college or working in a lab, or making a lot more money in private industry. Why are you teaching high school in the middle of nowhere?”
And he said, “Sure, I could do any of those things and maybe make a name for myself or make more money, but if I’m teaching at this level, and I inspire just one student every year to go on to bigger things, how much more impact do I have?”
That was the lasting lesson for me, the one I still carry. Pursue your goals, celebrate your accomplishments, but if you can also nudge one person forward, give one person hope, lift one person up, you are the pebble in the pond. And that is how you change the world.
Only Mr Warner could take such difficult subjects such as science and chemistry and make them so fun and understandable. Never a discipline issue in class as he held everyone’s attention. Balancing equations, DNA as the double helix structure or the chemist d’chateau - he brought them all to life. And how about the patented Wes Warner tie knot- he proved it was OK to be yourself ( and enjoy geo dome construction). A great teacher who will be missed. Kirt Walker Class Of ‘81
Just before Thanksgiving in my Senior year he challenged the class to steal a pumpkin from the corner of his roof. Much more interesting than it should have been because it was Warner. What was he up to this time? Sue, Liz. Jim and I were sure that pumpkin wouldn't beat us, and neither would that gourd teaching the class.
We waited a few days, and chose a time late at night when we were all certain that the Warner family would be sound asleep in their footies. It was the delinquents' time to shine.
Tippy-toe, tippy-toe and yadda, yadda, yadda, a picture of me, at the top of a ladder reaching for a pumpkin, with Jim, Liz and Sue in a wide-eyed Iwo Jima ladder-support-stance; was pinned to his bulletin board for the rest of the year. We were well framed. I STILL can't figure out how he and his son were in the bushes next to the house a few feet away. Had they been taking all their meals there? Dug a cave? Shadow puppets instead of TV?
What could have been my life in petty burglary ended that night. Not everyone learned their lesson. Sue. Liz and Jim became petty burglars and they've spent most of their lives in prison. Sixty-day terms and small fines add up if you've been caught a hundred times.
Mr Warner's despicable challenge started it all. He knew us so well.
He was the absolute best. I haven't gone a month in my life without thinking of him. I smile every time . Thanks Mr Warner. It's Pumpkin time again!
I have wonderful memories of learning chemistry in Mr. Warner’s classroom. He made learning a fun and intriguing exploration. Thank you Mt. Warner for your dedication to students and learning.
So sorry to hear about Wes. He was truly a wonderful person. I enjoyed time spent with him. Sending hugs to you Claudia & your family.
So very sorry Claudia and family for your loss.
Mr. Warner was one of the best. From his fun experiments and activities, to his sense of humor and respect to students, he was greatly loved. He made even the most difficult concepts interesting, and could really teach kids how to love learning.
Mr. Warner was an awesome teacher. I worked with Claudia at the library. God bless you all at this time. I will never forget how they could dance!!! Prayers for all of you!
I’m very saddened to hear about Wes. My condolences to you and your family.
Some of my best high school memories center around his classroom. He made chem and physics fun, but at the same time challenged us to think deeply and critically. During one of the many lively tangential discussions we would have in class, I blurted out...as a teenager would...”So you’re not really teaching us chemistry—you’re teaching us to think.” And without missing a beat, he replied with that wry, knowing smile of his, “You are learning some chemistry along the way.”
He made a tremendous difference in many lives, and we are better human beings for it. He will be missed.
Mr. Warner was the only reason I enjoyed Chemistry class!! He was a fabulous, caring teacher!! I had him at AHS and Iowa Lakes. My sympathies to the family!!
Warner was such an amazing teacher and person. I know he had an impact on so many lives. To me personally he showed me that people learn differently about things, and it’s ok. I remember him teaching the whole room a lesson in advanced chemistry, then he’d turn to me and teach me in the way I would understand. Like no big deal.
He allowed us (encouraged us) to pull pranks, and then we evaluated them after we got caught to figure out what we’d do differently.
He truly was a unicorn among teachers. He knew what unique gift each student had to give, and helped them to shine.
His letter of recommendation for me share that I had “Joie de vivre,” Which I had to look up what I meant. To this day I think of that saying often and use it to inspire me to truly live with Joy.
Thank you Warner for all you have taught me and so many.
Mrs. Warner, you have my deepest sympathies.
Claudia and family. We are so saddened to hear of Wes passing away. He was so wonderful to work with at the high school. I also enjoyed working with you via Library Board. Our sympathies and hugs are sent. Ken and Jan Andrews
What a great and fun teacher Wes Warner was at Algona High School! Teaching all and supporting their thoughts equally in open dialogue as we learned about science and sometimes people from him.
So very sorry. Wonderful man and teacher.