Check out this amazing story in The Oregonian about retired teacher James Atteberry, and one of his former students, Larry Israelson, who transferred from Atteberry's classroom in 1972 when he was 12. At the time, Israelson was something of a 'teacher's pet' to Atteberry, because he did such good work in class.
In the early 70's the political 'witch hunt' against gay teachers was particularly strong.
Some students suspected Atteberry was gay. A boy in class asked Atteberry what he thought about a proposed law banning gay teachers. When Atteberry asked the boy why he posed the question, the student said his father had specifically told his son to ask Atteberry. The teacher chose his words carefully.
Israelson was one of the best students. Bright and articulate, he submitted essays that Atteberry thought were remarkably good.
"I would praise Larry in class," Atteberry said. "That was his downfall."
In the locker room, boys began picking on Israelson.
"They started saying 'Larry' and then 'fairy' and rhyming it with 'Atteberry,'" Israelson recalled.
When he pleaded with them to stop, he was challenged to an after-school fight. Though scared, he hoped that by agreeing, they'd quit thinking he was gay. Even though he admired Atteberry and enjoyed learning from him, the boys were linking the teacher's life and his in a way that made him someone to be ridiculed.
Israelson requested a transfer from the principal and left Atteberry's classroom hastily, and silently, an action he always felt bad about, until this year, when he contacted Atteberry to apologize.
Read it all here, and get out your kleenex:
A teacher, a student and a 39-year-long lesson in forgiveness [the oregonian]