At the end of my book, Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make, I asked readers to email me stories of the educators who've changed their lives, and I promised to share them on my blog. I hear these amazing stories every time I deliver a keynote speech, every time I talk to a class of pre-service teachers, every time I lead a workshop. But rarely do educators actually write their stories and send them to me. Mostly I hear, "It was my kindergarten teacher Mrs. So-and-so!" as they're shaking my hand on the way out of an auditorium. These stories are difficult to capture, told in passing, in the middle of others told in passing. They're all amazing and wonderful, and I wish I could remember the details enough to bring them all back to this blog, but it's not realistic that I would be able to do them justice.
This week, however, an educator shared a story with me that's so inspiring that I did remember details, memorable enough that I want to share it with my readers. Two days ago I spoke to 1500 educators at the Educators are Essential Celebration, a recognition of American Education Week that honored the public school teachers of Columbus Municipal Schools, the Lowndes County Schools, and numerous private school educators from Columbus, Mississippi. After I shared my story about the difference my own first grade teacher had on my life, I was whisked away by a local reporter who interviewed me briefly. I returned to the auditorium to gather my things just as the audience was released, and so I became the official door-holder and ended up talking to almost each and every one of the 1,500. So many of them wanted to share their "Mrs. Warnecke" with me, and I was inspired by each one.
But toward the end of the crowd spilling out of the auditorium, a gentleman in a suit and tie stopped in front of me and told a brief story: "I was a high school dropout. I was going nowhere. And one night the high school assistant principal saw me at a basketball game at the school. He literally dragged me out of the stands and to his office. There he handed me the GED booklet. I'm now an assistant principal myself, and soon I'll receive my doctorate in education."
My mouth fell open. From high school dropout to school administrator soon to be called "Dr." The success of this man can be traced back to one MOMENT, one moment in time when an educator refused to give up on a kid, a moment when everything changed.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that we don't make a difference in this profession. We're doing it. Moment by moment.