Growing up in a teaching household (my mother a 34-year special education teacher, with my sister now at an elementary school), I knew right from the beginning not only how important teachers are, but also how selfless the profession is. Teaching doesn’t end when the bell rings and kids head for the bus. Teaching is a 24/7 career, one in which only the strong survive, and those that do can, and will, set fire to the minds of tomorrow.
For me, the foundation of becoming a journalist was my unrelenting thirst for knowledge and experience. I want to know everything, not in an arrogant way, but in a never-ending curiosity for all things beautiful and true. And all of that started with those unforgettable teachers who possessed the keys to the cosmos, ready to unlock whatever door one might find themselves knocking on.
• Mr. Power — ninth-grade English, cross-country/track. My teacher, mentor, coach, and longtime family friend, Mr. P (as we called him) has been in my life since I was born. When I joined the cross-country team in seventh grade, he took me under his wing, pushing me, academically and athletically, to always keep my eye on the ball. The man could bring the house down with his passionate speeches to our team about discipline, achieving your goals, and what it means to be a member of a productive society. It was about fulfilling your potential, where he would constantly quote the late, great runner Steve Prefontaine, “To give less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” The image of him, standing on the side of the track, screaming at the top of his lungs for me to run harder — “You’ve got this,” he’d yell as I rounded the curve towards the finish line — is something I carry in my mind as I continue along this journey called “life.” That, and nobody could ever top his classroom renditions of Arthur Miller plays.
• Mr. Gallagher — ninth-grade art. Beyond the fact he was a beloved educator, he also owned the largest collection of Rolling Stone magazines I’ve ever come across, many of which he eventually gave to me. Mr. Gallagher would let me borrow and read all of those old copies on his classroom shelves, issues that had a huge influence on my budding obsession with music. And the mere fact he would not only talk at length with me about music, but also would introduce to me to so many great groups (Supertramp being the most notable). He also gave me his original vinyl copy of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” which I still own. I was a pretty nerdy, scrawny and odd kid in ninth-grade, and he always made me feel accepted and “cool” when I would get excited in conversations about music.
• Ms. Boire — 11th grade English. The exact reason I became a writer. Having never really had an interest in reading or writing more than what I was assigned in school, Ms. Boire made those books and characters come to life. Her sincere and deep love of literature sparked something in me that still burns bright today. I’ll never forget that first day in her homeroom class. She blew in the door, all smiles, ready and roaring to get us excited to learn. That enthusiasm struck the depths of my soul. And, in the years since I graduated, she’s always championed my dream of becoming a writer, one who wants to inspire folks the same way she did for me.
• Professor Venit — College, broadcast journalism. Now, anyone who knows him knows that the guy is a true legend in his field, one whose shadow on Connecticut journalism is as big as his heart. He and I got along the moment I stepped into his newsroom. He always believed in me, telling me I “had that something” which showed my destiny and potential in journalism. He showed all of us that if you truly love what you do, then you’ll never work a day in your life.
I’m still good friends with all of these great people above, and will always be. To all you teachers out there, never underestimate your influence on your students, because someone, somewhere in your classroom, is hanging on your every word, ready to take on the world with the power of love, compassion and determination you put forth in your own endeavors.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1 Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will have Lucid (rock/funk) at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13. Free.
2 The Balsam Mountain Roller Girls will host the “Butterbrawl Invitational” on Sunday, Nov. 15 at the Smoky Mountain Sk8way & Fun Zone in Waynesville.
3 No Name Sports Pub (Sylva) will have Dirty Soul Revival (rock/blues) at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. Free.
4 The sixth annual Taste of Sylva culinary tour will run from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, in downtown restaurants and in the pavilion at McGuire Gardens on West Main Street.
5 Tipping Point Brewing (Waynesville) will have Red Leg Husky (Americana) at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. Free.