Remembering Wilhelm Schöngen

This journal entry is a bit more personal than others. My mother sent me an obituary she came across in the newspaper.

It’s Wilhelm Schöngen, my math and physics teacher from 5th to 10th grade, many many years ago. The time at the “Math.Nat.” probably was the most important and influential time in my school years.

I still remember so many teachers and classmates I met during this time. Mr. Schöngen was one of the teachers who followed me in my memories in all the years when I moved to another school, when I worked jobs, or when I went to college. Even now he’s he’s following me like a ghost of the past, reminding me of all the questionable decisions I may have made in the past.

And I don’t mean it in a bad way. He was one of the toughest teachers in those days, but I forgave him because I knew it was rooted in honesty and passion. I don’t know what it says about me, but (at least in classes that interested me) I always liked teachers who challenged their students and didn’t make it too easy for them. Maybe it was the challenge of succeeding in a difficult class. But I always thought there was a level of honesty, transparency, no hidden agendas, no politics…they simply seemed to care more than other teachers. Mr. Schöngen was one of those who cared. More than I realized until it was too late. He supported my interest in math and physics while other math teachers I had later almost managed to extinguish my interest.

I have to admit I realized the true value of having him teach math only after I had left and experienced some other math teachers.

This realization first struck me when I decided to change schools and continue with a focus on electronics. I will never forget the last time I met him. He was so disappointed and really upset to hear about my decision to leave. I was shocked, I never thought my decision could upset him so much. I never thought he cared that much. This moment haunted me quite often in all the following years. It still does. It was my first big regret in my life.

I always hoped I could meet him again, just to catch up… maybe in the hope to show him that I didn’t end up living on the streets, perhaps to get his late approval, perhaps to show my appreciation for the fingerprints he left on me, perhaps to find peace and closure.

Every time I was in Mönchengladbach I wanted to visit my old school again and find out if he was still teaching there. But time has always been too short, and I have to confess I wasn’t brave enough. I was too worried about awkward moments. I don’t know if he would have remembered me at all after these years. Maybe I was also worried he wouldn’t remember me.

It’s too late now, but I’d like to thank him for leaving this imprint on my memories. He was a good teacher, and now he is a good ghost to haunt and keep me on the right track. :)