Monday, January 11, 2016

A teacher affects eternity, and can never tell where the influence stops. - Henry Brooks Adams

Thirty years ago, a terrific young man named Dave Martin was a student teacher in my building, under the watchful guidance of my friend and excellent (and award-winning) teacher,  named Kathy Coll. Kathy and I were the 9th and 10th grade English teachers on the Impact Team, a special program for challenged learners, so we spent a lot of hours together planning, strategizing, and discussing "our kids."   Dave quickly became a part of the team, and when Kathy was busy with her wonderful Student Council projects, he spent some planning periods with me, both observing and discussing teaching strategies.  I still remember how sad the students and Kathy and I were to see him leave when he completed his student teaching semester, as he had become a true team member and part of the staff.

A few years later, and long before email and the Internet, I received a desperate letter from
Dave.  He had secured a 10th grade English teaching position somewhere near the "big woods" of northern rural Pennsylvania, and his new district was using the same book as North Allegheny. He had a big problem- no teacher guides were available, and he had no resources. "PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE" he wrote, "Send me your stuff!!"  Kathy and I discussed his terrible predicament, and my quest to help Dave began.  I spent hours methodically going through my filing cabinets, clipping stacks of papers together, 
along with handwritten notes for each unit. Handouts and quizzes and tests and vocabulary words were shared, enough to take him through the entire school year.  (If you have never been a teacher, these papers represent thousands of hours of creative work and typing, since we were moving from the ditto age to the Xerox age back then.)

12 Angry Men, Julius Caesar, a short story unit, a nonfiction unit, poetry and creative writing, and expository writing, along with a teacher-created SAT prep unit were stuffed into numerous brown envelopes and sent to Dave, who rejoiced upon receiving the teacher-care packages.  He sent a lovely thank you note, and then we lost contact. Kathy and I wondered how he was faring, but he had moved on.  We were sure he was teaching somewhere wonderful and being successful.

And then Dave found me on LinkedIn.  Isn't the Internet wonderful?  

We had a great conversation last Friday, and I discovered that, indeed, Dave has been successful, as both a teacher and an administrator in several districts, and that he is currently working to help to improve a charter school in an administrative position.  he talked about the practices he learned during his tenure with Kathy and the Impact Team, especially regarding accommodations for students with special needs.  We had a practice in our building that teachers would submit their written accommodations into a "special ed" mailbox, ensuring both teachers and the students were on the same page regarding expectations and work.  Dave shared with me that when he got his first teaching job, he handed his lesson plans and accommodations to the special education teacher, who asked "What's this?"  "My accommodations and plans for our shared students," he answered.  The teacher could not believe his initiative and work ethic, but he told me "That's what I learned to do at North Allegheny, so of course, I became what I learned."

As our conversation was winding down, Dave said something to me that touched my heart, and that one simple statement is what prompted me to write this post. He said, "Dede, just think how many students' lives I touched in a positive way because of what you and Kathy taught me."  (Kathy, I know you are crying, and that is OK.  I cried, too.  It's a good thing we hung up after that.) 

Teachers and reader friends, this post is not about Kathy or me, or even Dave.  It is about YOU and the impact you make every single day, reminding you that your influence will continue . . .  ad infinitum.  You see, a teacher's influence never stops, which is why teachers must do the very best job possible every minute of every day.  Happy 2016! I hope it is your BEST year yet! 

ADDENDUM: I completed this post and sent it off to Dave and Kathy, and I need to share an irony of ironies. Turns out Dave had just finished telling the lesson plan story - the same one I told in this piece - to his Charter School principal,  when my message reply to him on LinkedIn popped up!  And for the record,  Dave has already paid his lesson plan gifts forward, sharing ALL of his files with his replacement teacher when he moved to administration.  Little ripples can become large waves, friends.  

I published this piece with  permission from those whose names appear in this post. 

Read Dave's post ACCEPTABLE HEARTBREAK- all about teaching- at 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  Many colleges have made the book required reading. 
Signed copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at .  The website IS UP AND RUNNING!!!.  Signed copies ARE available!  Coloring books and Grady plush toys are ordered! 

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

Connect with Dede!

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Dede is the co-host of The Total Education Q & A, which can be heard on Blogtalk Radio at 

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