He was a frightening figure when I first met him, with tattoos of verses in Arabic and lines from literature on his arms, a shaved head, a ragged beard, and the combination of a stern voice and piercing gaze.
As an Indian who is often mistaken for someone from the Middle East, I had received plenty of negative attention from people who looked like him. But I could not avoid him.
It was 2002, and Curtis Butterfield was my freshman biology teacher and my coach for the junior-varsity academic team at Moline High School.
Early in the school year, Butterfield gave me a confrontation, but not the one I had been dreading.
"You know this is not your best work," he said, with the voice and glare used to full effect, "and if you think you're staying in my class, you need to start doing better work."
Butterfield "doesn't invite people to come in and learn; he demands that students learn," said Nicholas Pitz, a Moline High German teacher and varsity academic-team coach. "Learning is not an option."