It's Teacher Appreciation Week and as you scroll through Facebook and Twitter you're likely seeing lots of shoutouts to teachers, a very under-appreciated profession.
I'd like to share some quick thoughts about my favorite teacher, Steve Mayer, who left us way too soon when he was struck and killed by a car two weeks ago while running near his home in New Jersey. The news was devastating for those of us who were lucky to have him as a teacher.
"Mr. Mayer" was my sixth grade teacher back in 1987 when he was fresh out of college and just 24 years old. He was, simply put, the coolest teacher. All the prepubescent girls in my class swooned over him, all the guys wanted to be him. He was funny, kind, competitive and ridiculously optimistic. He brought a contagious energy each day to school and to his lessons. He was also my basketball coach in 7th and 8th grade when I was the quite possibly the worst starting shooting guard in the history of Griebling Elementary School. And he always told me to shoot more! :)
Like a great teacher does, he gave us all confidence that we had the ability to succeed.
He devoted his life's work to education. In the years following our class he went on to get his Masters and PhD, work as a principal, become a district superintendent and impact the lives of thousands and thousands of students in New Jersey over the past 28 years.
Thanks to the internet, I was able to watch his memorial service from 2,000 miles away here in Colorado. Steve Mayer, as I learned (although not surprisingly in retrospect), was a man of deep Christian faith who went on mission trips to Brazil, delivered sermons at his church, and touched the lives of so many people around him they had to have the memorial service at four different locations for space reasons.
His wife and three sons told a lot of great stories about Steve but the one they ended their eulogy with struck me the most. Each day, as his 3 kids would walk out the door on their way to school, Steve would tell them “Make someone’s day today.” It's a phrase which sounds a lot like something Steve Mayer would say, and a phrase that might be my own answer for “Describe the Gospel in five words or less.”
Since hearing that story, I’ve decided to carry on the same tradition with my own son Owen, who’s become very receptive to the challenge and now comes home telling me about certain kids at school that he’s cheered up (usually with some corny jokes). My 4 year old Wynnie, never to be outdone, came home beaming last week about finding another girl's ring at preschool and "making her day".
Educators can have an enormous volume of impact on others, can't they? In the business world, I'll likely manage (or teach) about a hundred others during the course of my career. Teachers, principals, superintendents? It's literally hundreds and thousands of students over the years that they'll have the opportunity to positively impact.
Be sure to let your favorite teachers know this week about the impact they had on your life. I'll always be grateful for the positive influence that Steve Mayer had on me at such a formative time in my life and wish I still had the opportunity to tell him. Rest in peace Mr. Mayer...