Last night I helped a long-time colleague celebrate her retirement. After 40+ years in the classroom, Meg “Mama” Hawley has filed her last lesson plan, graded the last essay, and attended her last faculty meeting. She now gets to create the next phase of her life.
Meg made a difference—a huge difference—in the lives of thousands of students. Her kind nurturing (and reality-based) ways enabled students to develop intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Always ready with a smile and a word or two of wisdom, “Mama” was a rock in the lives of many.
In a time when teachers are vilified by those who have little (if any) idea what they really do each day in the classroom, Meg proved that “those who can, teach.” She will be missed in the classroom.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not. ~Dr. Seuss
And while it can be easy and cliché to lament the passing of a generation from our classrooms, we have to be ever mindful of the rising of a powerful and hopeful new generation.
At the same celebration of Meg’s accomplishments, I had the pleasure to re-connect with a former student of mine, Brian Heggood. Brian excelled as a student—and always displayed an authentically kind spirit. Since those days of his Calvin and Hobbes t-shirts in an Advanced Placement United States History class at Stanton College Preparatory School (Jacksonville, Florida), Brian has grown into an inspirational teacher of history (of all things ) at his alma mater. His wife, Sheila, teaches at Stanton as well.
Brian and Sheila exude a passion for teaching that is gratifying and encouraging to witness. They spoke of the coming school year with excitement. Sharing ideas about developing a learning community across disciplines, they can’t wait to dive back into another year. This is the rising generation of teachers; a generation that will serve our community well. Again, while there is denigration of our teachers in public discourse, please know there are those out there who are doing remarkable things each day. In small, incremental steps they are making a difference in our world.
And I don’t believe Brian and Sheila are anomalies. Countless teachers across this great nation toil for the love of their students and the love of their craft each day. They work, in some cases, against incomprehensible socio-economic and political odds. Our teachers have no control over which students walk into their classrooms. They have no control over the conditions from which these students come from and return to each day. But they DO lead the classroom environment and the overall education experience these students have each day.
Meg, thanks for the years, the wisdom, the love, the nurturing, and the laughter. Brian and Sheila, thanks for being our light for the future. Above all, thanks to you and your colleagues for making a difference in our world.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. ~William James
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