last night i was thinking back to days gone by and what i wanted to do in life. my mind drifted back to my biology teacher in high school, mr. geno lomaistro. he was a quirky guy, he was a funny guy, but most importantly he was a scientist who taught science, and that passion came through in the classroom. he was by far the most effective teacher i had throughout high school, and when i thought about what made him so effective, three key points emerged.

i was already curious about science. i grew up watching mr. wizard and beakman’s world and the discovery channel (way back before reality tv creeped in to their programming). i was primed for learning biology because it was already an interest of mine. his passion for the subject matter was infectious and only deepened that interest.

lomo—as he liked to be called—was almost more a friend than he was a teacher although he never let you forget he was still in charge. he probably handed out detention as much as anyone in that school. still, he gave students nicknames and would say “yo, dawg,” which only endeared him to his pupils even more given that he was not particularly young. during tests—where every other teacher would demand complete silence—lomo would tune in to public radio and have us listen to classical music. he’d be pacing around the classroom patrolling the aisles and every so often you’d hear, breaking through the calm, a whisper: “ah! this [song] is a good one.”

and yet, through all of the jokes and classroom quirks he was—at the end of the day—a scientist who knew science. he had answers when you had questions, and even when he didn’t, he would research it for you. it wasn’t uncommon for him to let us talk amongst ourselves for a moment while he picked up an old textbook and searched through the index, or to walk down the hall real quickly and bring back another teacher from the science department who could answer the question.

lomo was the most effective teacher to me because of those three things:

  • his message was targeted, he knew his audience, and his audience wanted to hear what he was saying.
  • he understood that before communication could happen he needed to take the time to build the relationships which would be the conduits for that information transfer.
  • he knew the subject matter he was talking about. and even when he didn’t, he knew precisely where to find it.

if you want to be an effective communicator; if you want to affect change in your organization or marketplace; if you want to be the kind of leader people follow, you’d do well to master those three lessons from mr. lomaistro.

target your message. get permission before transmission. know, deeply, the subject matter.