December 6, 2015
Dear Fellow Travelers,
Over the weekend, I was handed a newspaper article from 2013. My sister knew I would want to see this even though it was “old news”. It was the obituary of my 5th-grade teacher’s wife. Sadly, I read how my 5th-grade teacher had lost his bride of 66 years on Christmas Eve in 2013. I loved my 5th-grade teacher. He was my favorite teacher throughout my school career. He was an encouraging teacher, an ordained minister, an early mentor, and he could put a wicked spin on a kick ball.
The obituary and short article included a picture of him and his wife. It was an honor to read about their life story and their love story. This former student enjoyed learning some details about her former teacher. I learned that he had originally dated his wife’s older sister (that had to make for fun family gatherings). I learned where he received his education; he majored in Bible and Elementary Education. I read how they had cooked all day in anticipation for a large Christmas Eve family gathering but she began to feel ill and died later in the hospital that evening.
At just 10-years-old, I doubt I knew what a gem of a teacher he truly was. He combined preaching and teaching; a big “no-no” in today’s public schools. When he heard someone using “bad” words on the playground, he talked to the class about it. He challenged our 10- year-old minds with the suggestion, “Couldn’t we choose our words more carefully?” Some would label that a forbidden sermon; I call it honing life skills.
Fifth grade was when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. What little bit of a wanna-be-teacher-flame was there, he fanned it. He allowed me to look over spelling and math quizzes with a red pen in hand. Very special memories!
As most children believe, I thought my 5th-grade teacher was quite old when I sat under his tutelage decades ago. If I am doing my math correctly (trying to make my teacher proud), he is now 89 years old. So when is it too late to say “thank you”?
That obituary and short article nudged me to want to offer a belated “thank you”. But is it just too late? Too many years have come and gone? Why bother, right?
But the wheels begin to turn. Maybe? A quick search on the internet and I find his address. Yes, why not! I can do this; I should do this. Just a simple “thank you” for caring about my heart and character as well as my mind; for challenging me to be the best person and student that I could be. It is not important that he remembers me ( I was just one of hundreds of students); I just want to say “thank you”. Does a heart-felt “thank you” have an expiration date? I don’t think so.
Following graduation, I went to college majoring in elementary education. My first teaching assignment as a very green elementary teacher was as a 5th grade teacher and I have someone special to thank for that. I will write a 44-year-old belated “thank you” to my 5th-grade teacher for who he was and how he challenged and encouraged me. It is not too late. It is never too late to say “thank you.” An expression of gratitude has no expiration date.