It was back in 1978, and I was a struggling high school student. In those days woodshop, PE, and auto mechanics were my favorite subjects—these classes meant fun and that was different. Oh and there was one other class I liked that year: English

Admittedly, I felt pretty much the same as the next guy toward dangling participles and sentence diagrams. But it was my 10th grade English teacher, Tom Till, that made all the difference. He was young, hip, engaging, and fun-loving for the most part. While I thought a lot of him at the time, because he was kind and amusing—which was refreshing for that stodgy old high school—I never took the time to get to know him well. If I had, I may have learned that he was an aspiring artist teaching school on the side so he could pursue his real dream of photography. Nonetheless, he was a great teacher because he was young and gregarious, and as such he connected with me. And that was the beginning of a journey that has taken him all across the world.

white-board-593309_640Mr. Till taught literature as well then, and so it was that we were taking turns reading one day and the fellow behind me struggled with a portion of our assignment to read the text out loud. Something struck me funny as he articulated the dialog “My name is Sam,” while his name was really David (name has been changed). We were immature children and laughter erupted spontaneously, and this boy squirmed in his seat. Without demeaning any of us, Mr. Till calmed the class down and encouraged David to continue, which he did. None of us thought about this incident another minute. I can’t be sure, but I was likely responsible for the stinging in his eyes. Mr. Till tactfully recognized a student and saved his self-respect in class that day.

High school moves on and waits for no one, such as it was. Mr. Till taught us English, grammar, and literature, and I made an effort to befriend David. We passed in the hallway and talked occasionally. We were chums, I guess you could say, and I appreciated his companionship and loyalty.

Mr. Till’s dedication and talent was discovered and his passion changed the course of his life, pursuing the dream he nurtured back in the early day’s as he was doing whatever it took to attain his dream of photography. Now, years later, he can share his talent with the world, and we are all the better for it.

My tenth grade English teacher taught me more than grammar. He instructed me on the art of giving people hope in word and deed. He encouraged and recognized me. He helped me see that if I could imagine it, then I could do it. And that has given me a vision into things I never dreamed.

0170da13aa664638e73b8159af3f9504So it was that I was at work one day many years later and decided I needed an updated calendar to hang in my office. So naturally, I went to the Internet and began searching for options. Since I grew up in Southern Utah and hold a special place in my heart for this region of the world, I decided to search for a calendar of the Canyonlands area. I found one, purchased it, and soon received a package from the retailer in the mail. When I removed the wrapping and browsed through its pictures, I was impressed with the natural beauty of the photography and the landscapes. As I hung the calendar on my wall, I thought I recognized the name of the photographer, Tom Till. It sounded kind of familiar, then it hit me.

Tom Till is now one of America’s most published landscape and nature photographers.  Over 250,000 of Till’s images have appeared in print since 1977. Till’s extensive library of fine art photography depicts landscape, nature, history, and travel subjects worldwide, including all fifty states and 104 countries.

“I feel very lucky and blessed to spend my life in the World’s most beautiful places. Although I get a great deal of personal satisfaction and fun from my work, photography is really about sharing what you are experiencing with others.”  ― Tom Till

So you may be wondering after this life of relative fame and fortune, does Mr. Till still remember me. Yeah, he remembers me. When I visited his gallery in Moab, Utah, and asked him, he commented “You were the obnoxious kid that sat near the front of the class, right?” Yeah, that was probably me.

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Mr. Till also taught me to love what I do and shoot for the stars because anything is possible. On his way to achieving his dreams, he had the presence of mind to bring others along and help them capture his indominatable spirit. He continues to share his vision with others, gratefully.

Through his good example he saved another student that day, me, and he is still teaching.

There is so much to be learned from one another.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”  ― Ansel Adams


About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.

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