Tom Meschery: Dishing out knowledge
Editors note: This is the second installment of a two-part series about Tom Meschery. on Saturday, June 14, focused on Mescherys professional basketball career.
Truckees only NBA All-Star has touched the lives of many human beings in his 69 years in at least two distinct ways.As a short-fused enforcer during his 10-year career, Tom Meschery did so in a literal, physical sense, boxing out opponents with his broad body, even throwing blows with ill intentions when his temper flared.As an English teacher at Reno High School and Sierra College, a refined version of the 6-foot-6 power forward made a more lasting impact on his students through words of instruction. The longtime Truckee resident says he took much pride in both professions, more so than his third calling writing books of poems.Asked to rank the three, Meschery puts teaching at the top of his list.Im more proud of my basketball career than writing because Im just sort of starting out. I got into it much later, he says. Now, comparing my basketball career with being a high school English teacher is more difficult. As a player it was personally very satisfying, but I know I did more good by being an English teacher. I know Ive touched the lives of an awful lot of young people. For that Im extremely proud.
Former student Meg Raymore, a 1994 Reno High grad, says she feels fortunate to have taken Mescherys AP English class her senior year. He was a very inspiring teacher because, not only was he just a cool guy, he brought such a depth and passion to the subject, says Raymore, who later graduated from Stanford University with a degree in American Studies before moving to Truckee. It was inspirational to have this towering ex-NBA player discuss fine works of literature.His interactive teaching style made the class even more enjoyable, Raymore says.Hes so engaging. He wants to know what youre doing and what youre thinking. Hes one of the most memorable teachers Ive ever had. Hes the only teacher Ive stayed in contact with.Meschery began teaching at Reno High in 1984 and retired after the 2005 school year. He also taught classes English 1A and 1B and creative writing two nights a week at the Sierra College extension campus in Truckee from 1979 until 2006.It was there that Truckees Jim Porter, senior lawyer with Porter Simon law firm, picked up a teaching tip from Meschery while also instructing part time at the junior college.I had just finished a three-hour (business law) lecture and kind of felt pretty good about myself, Porter recalls. When we met afterward in the hall, (Meschery) said he had just had the best class because he hardly had to say a thing. I thought, Oh my God, I dont know how to teach. I never said anything to him, but I instantly changed my style to include more dialogue with my students.Meschery beams with pride when breaking down his teaching philosophies, including how to squeeze the most potential out of students. Above all, he says, a teacher must truly care about those who are trying to absorb the lesson.I dont think you can be a teacher unless you love the students, and you cant be a good teacher if you dont know the subject, he says. You can never be condescending to them. Youve got to set the bar high and make them prove that they can do it, and nine times out of 10 they can. Most people have enormous potential they just havent tapped into it.
After retiring from the NBA in 1971, followed by a short coaching stint, Meschery earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1974 to pursue a career in teaching and writing. Soon after moving to Truckee in 1975, Meschery and his wife Joanne opened Truckee River Book andamp; Tea on Commercial Row, which they ran for four years.Meschery was particularly fond of poetry and essay writing, having already written and published Over the Rim in 1970 and Caught in the Pivot: a Diary of a Rookie Coach in the Exploding World of Pro Basketball in 1973.He released his next book of poems, Nothing We Lose Can Be Replaced, in 1999, the same year his wife was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame for her work as a novelist. Three years later, in 2002, Meschery earned the same honor.Although hes now a retired gentleman of leisure in his words Meschery says he still writes. He currently has three works in progress. The furthest along is another book of poems. He also has a book of essays and a semi-mystery novel that hes tinkering with. But, Its in some dusty drawer, he says.Despite having more free time on his hands this when not taking art classes at Sacramento City College Meschery says he doesnt write as often as he could.In some ways youve got to be careful because the more time you have to write, the more you tend to put it off, Meschery says.