Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It just takes one teacher to change a life....

OK, so I am returning from my evening rehearsal and man am I beat!!! For those of you who may not know, I play for the symphony in the city that I live in. It is amazing work and I love every minute of it... but it got me thinking about my "career" as a music student and how my clarinet teacher influenced me more than any of my other teachers.

I started the clarinet when I was 10 years old. My 6th grade band instructor just happened to be a very well-respected clarinet player, so I learned from a great man. He followed us up to junior high and was my instructor for 7th, 8th and 9th grade and in that time I learned more from him than I think any of my other teachers. He was a homely guy, nerdy one might say but he was so passionate about his job. He lived to teach music to students. Anyone outside of the band would see him and make fun of him for his walk, his comb-over, his personality or any other thing they might see as "not cool" but I tell you what, he had more students backing him up than I think I have ever seen before. If someone talked bad about Mr. B, they got jumped. I don't doubt that he knew that outside of our band hall (where over 1/3 of the student body came through day to day) that he was seen as a geek, but he didn't care. He was who he was and taught us to be who we were. To be proud of what we were capable of, to push ourselves to improve but not to have unrealistic expectations. I never enjoyed band more than I did those 3 years in junior high with him and my friends. I continued with band for most of high school and some of college, but never enjoyed it as much as I did then. It's a testament to him and how he instilled that passion into me. I never was a fantastic player, but I was good and it was because of him.

Thanks to Facebook, we have all been able to keep in touch one way or the other and 2 years ago we all found out that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; one of the deadliest types of cancer. He fought a hard battle and died in February. During those 2 years, through the power of e-mail and Facebook, we were able to reach over 500 of his former students, spread the word and ask for prayers, letters... ANYTHING to let him know we were thinking of him. From what I heard, he received over 200 letters of appreciation... including one from myself. I am so glad I had the opportunity to tell him how much he influenced my life and how he continues to be an example of the type of teacher I want to be.

I look at my kiddos, past and present and I hope that somewhere I have made an impact on their lives. I try to show my passion of teaching math through our daily interactions but as a teacher you may never know how much you have changed someone's life. I have to remember how much Mr. B influenced mine and know that even if I never find out, I am making a difference.

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