My professional life has been shaped and influenced by many great educators.
All are worthy - despite their assurances that they are not - of a piece of writing clarifying their influence on me.
And I hope someday I will be able to sit down with pen in hand and give them due diligence.
Diligence to the belief that teachers are not born; they are created.
Through their childhood.
Through their school years.
Through their learning.
And those that influence that learning.
And influence their life.
Hence, I confess that I was created.
By them. By their influence.
And given my troubles and struggles as a learner and their individual investment in me to overcome those troubles, that they would be so proud of whatever I wrote about them.
Or whatever I wrote. Period.
Who knew that the hyperactive, anxious, disruptive child who hated to read, write, and attend school (I would rather hide in the hayloft all day) would become a teacher?
An English teacher.
And eventually a school leader.
With an awesome team.
Apparently, they did.
But what made them so important to me, in hindsight, was that they knew that school - and the teachers in it...including themselves - were not the only place where learning occurred.
Or where influence occurred.
They knew it took a community.
To create an educator.
To create me.
And they encouraged - and sometimes insisted on - that learning and interaction with my community.
Dody knew that time with Buzzy Picken in his garage would teach me more than any day in fourth grade.
So she looked the other way (as she did with my father when he was in her class) when I struggled to go to school and just ended up bugging Buzzy - after exiting the hayloft - to fix my bicycle in his garage, hanging around to watch him work hard (really hard), interact with customers, and tell jokes.
I am still not convinced that Buzzy and Dody were not in cahoots in regards to my education.
Bless you, Dody.
Bless you, Buzzy.
And Coach Stone knew that Bob White was what I needed. More than football.
Telling me to honor my commitment. And to go to work. To cut wood. And mow lawns. And build stone walls. And not leave Bob in the lurch. In turn, missing practice.
Honoring a commitment was more important than learning plays.
The former would serve me well in life. The latter would to, but just to a lesser a degree.
What a great coach. To know that. To know that fine line.
Bless you, Mike Stone.
Bless you, Bob White.
And Peggy knew that she could teach me grammar and writing in Junior English but she could not teach me life.
Henry Koloski could do that, though.
So she encouraged me to miss school and talk to Henry. Again.
And write about it.
To record it.
So I wrote a poem.
And when I was teaching English, I was able to share that poem with his great-grandson.
Who re-shared it with me recently.
To remind me.
That it takes a community.
To create educators.
To create good humans.
Bless you, Peggy. Wherever you are.
Where on earth did you get that foresight?
So thank you Dody, Roger, Frank, Coach Stone, Coach Lovering, and Peggy.
I hope you are proud of what I’ve become.
Sometimes I am so unsure of myself and wish you were here to still teach me.
But mostly I am confident in what you created.
You created me.
And I try to honor you in my work.
And your investment in me.
Horses, Henry, and Me.
(written in Peggy Miller’s Junior English Class)
In the summer evenings
of my youth,
when the horses
sauntered down the lane
to eat hay
and scratch their necks
and chests against
the barb wire gate,
my neighbor Henry
sat on his porch steps
drinking beer from a can
and smoking a cigarette.
(My hands still stinging
from the wire handles
of the water pails)
when I, too, felt
only like sauntering,
I would make my way
up our dirt road,
past the old maples
and the rusted out Scout,
to hear Henry's gentle,
(The same greeting
he gave my father
when he was young).
Henry would slide
to one side
of the step,
a sign for me
to join him in sitting,
I passed time
that I would never learn
from school, reading,