On Christmas morning this past December, my second oldest brother, my sister, one of our twin brothers who was younger still and I went to visit a man we knew as our high school choir director. He was convalescing in a health care facility, having broken his femur at Thanksgiving. It was a special Christmas morning for us all, my favorite one in years. We found him in his room, wheeled him to the social area and proceeded to “shoot the breeze” with him before having to leave. This man still remains an important part of our lives. He was the reason both my older brother and I became teachers.
As I begin to write this week’s column, I’m a few hours from being picked up by one of my former students who graduated in the ‘90s. We’re planning on seeing the new Ben Affleck movie and getting dinner after. This isn’t an unusual event for me. And for that, I’m grateful each day. I have been more fortunate than others as it’s been an ongoing occurrence for me.
I have no doubt how our choir director felt by our visit. I know how I feel when students keep me in their lives years after they’ve grown up and built lives of their own. For example, one of my ’91 grads works in the France Avenue area, and for years he and I have been meeting up there almost monthly for lunch. We struck a mutual chord when he entered my room as a freshman, and we’ve been close ever since.
Another one of my students from ‘86 calls me every year on my birthday in December, and I call him on his in July. We say we’re going to connect for lunch or something, but with his dental business and three daughters, he stays busy. It’s enough he thinks of me each year on my birthday.
Recently, I’ve heard from students I hadn’t seen since graduation night. One of them just published a memoir. Another has asked me to announce three football games for her newly formed semi-pro tackle football women’s team. Last fall, another former student reached out and asked to meet, so we could discuss me announcing her track meets this spring for kindergarten through sixth graders. I agreed just so I could see her again. She was always one of my favorites, and it had been decades since seeing her. I ended up agreeing to announce for both events too!
Then there’s the student with whom I have Italian fries every so often at the Eagan Italian Pie Shoppe. Another, now living in Milwaukee with his family, awaits my arrival this summer for a Brewers’ game. Then there’s the guy who has TWO sets of young twins but still finds time to stay in touch and has helped me with some house projects in the last couple of years. The list goes on.
Having spoken with other teachers on this topic, I can say it means a lot to us when former students maintain or reconnect as the years pass by. It’s wonderful hearing how their individual stories developed after graduating. And, as you would expect, life presented many of them with challenges we all face as adults. Someday, perhaps, I’ll share the story how one of my students reappeared at just the right time in my life.
Did you connect with any teachers when you were an adolescent? Why not take time to find one of those teachers who made your life a little more pleasant for you during those important years, if only to drop a note of recognition? I promise you the satisfaction in doing so would be a two-way street.
Time’s up! See you next week!