HodgePodge: A love of words, an inspirational teacher

A love of words, an inspirational teacher

HodgePodge by Charlie Hodge

Mom initiated my virgin love for words – reading then teaching.

As I aged she guided those early words well – first buying or reading me the Classics Illustrated comic and then once I’d read the comic would give me the actual book to read. Which I did with a passion.

Mom lit the fire of books and writing, loved my poetry and songs, and totally supported my artist artistic branch in life. When dad ranted that I need to “stop being a useless poet, writer, bum…” and work with numbers in a bank or mortgage company, or with tools and build houses it was Mom who would quietly assure me I was not wrong in my dreams of writing.

Grandfather Atkinson was an author and historian by trade, so the will and way with witty words was perhaps part of my ink-line- err bloodline.

However Dad carried a lot of weight, physically and mentally when it came to directions in my life. I felt guilty wanting to build pictures in people’s imagination, not homes or running a business office. Thankfully as a teenager I also had the positive support of some of superb and strong teachers in Douglas Moore, Ian Middler, and Maurice Reveryand who channeled my creative flair through English or Drama classes. They calmed my angst and encouraged me chasing my own goals.

However, without question my real mentor and inspiration for chasing a career with words was creative writing teacher Eileen Cassidy.

Eileen was a teacher first and tremendous friend for the rest of my life. Her perception and motivation was truly a gift. A Godsend that felt my fear and hurt and insisted I just do was I was doing.

When we look back in life, if we are lucky there are a few folks that truly made a difference. Eileen was that for me. Eileen Cassidy kept me alive, in fact she saved it and motivated me. There are no other words to explain it.

I remember our recent conversation when she grinned and suggested, “Never give up that burn in you Charlie. Never shut off the valve of feelings that flow from you.”

Eileen shined me up and tossed me into a world of sparking confidence. She had a way of encouraging me instantly. A few minutes around that addictive impish gushing grin and I was proud of Charlie Hodge again.

I am devastated with her passing last week. The kind soul born September 21, 1933 in Tofield, Alberta, she was a beloved teacher to many students during her teaching days in Vegreville, Edmonton, Kelowna Secondary School and Okanagan Mission.Cremation has taken place, and there will be a Celebration of Life at a later date.

I have many thoughts of Eileen, but former classmate and newspaper contact Marzio Manderioli says it best. “English 12 with Mrs. Cassidy was the highlight of my high school experience. She was simply phenomenal. There was a loving, deliberate intent in most everything she did. Her walk, posture, facial expression, hand gestures, choice of vocabulary and inflection in her voice, her colourful outfits, the literature she picked, the writers she emphasized, right down to the posters on the classroom wall –-all meshed seamlessly into a wonderful “pedagogical dance.” Her classes were thoroughly interesting, consistently rigorous and wildly entertaining. With her indomitable smile, generous spirit and boundless energy, she challenged us to be good people, set high standards and think for ourselves. Even students who disliked literature and writing could not find it in their hearts to criticize such a skilled, thoughtful and considerate teacher. She was the consummate professional –-making her work seem easy and delightful while behind the scenes she worked to near exhaustion to serve her students. Because she loved us, we could not help but love her back. My heartfelt condolences to Eileen’s family. – Marzio Manderioli.

Wow Marzio – you nailed it.

The world, certainly my world, was blessed to have Eileen Cassidy as a guest.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.


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