I'm not sure you know who I am; after all, it's been 25 years since I was your student, and probably 20 since you last saw me. Maybe you remember me as a gangly 12-year-old not paying enough attention in the back of your 7th-grade classroom, or as a hyper-hormonal 17-year-old haunting the gym waiting for my girlfriend to get done with volleyball practice. As I look back on my time at Algonquin Middle School and later Jacobs High School, I doubt I made much of a positive impression on you.
But I wanted to write to say thank you, because you absolutely made an impression on me. I honestly cannot remember what subject you taught -- I think it was science? -- but the lessons I learned from you have stayed with me all this time. Because of you I learned to tie a necktie; a skill I used for both high school and college graduations, for every job interview, when meeting Presidents and lobbying Congressmen, and most recently when celebrating my Mother's life when she passed away suddenly last month. And because of you I learned to read a topo map, internalizing your insistence that translating grouped lines and compass headings was an important skill, and learning to love cartography. I have always harbored a secret wish to make that my career, and even today my office is decorated with quadrangles and terrain maps depicting the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround my new home.
Most of all, though, I want to thank you for the way you taught those lessons. I'm sure there was classroom work involved -- and I'm pretty sure I failed my first attempt at a necktie -- but what I remember most was that both units involved homework. For that I thank you, because that homework meant an opportunity to interact with my dad one-on-one, and for whatever reason, those two projects stick out in my mind as very special moments in our relationship. I've come to learn the value of my time with family much more in the past year, and so I am forever grateful to you for that connection I have with my father.
I was saddened to hear of your passing last weekend. For more than 35 years, you were a fixture at District 300, and through your teaching, your counseling and your coaching you shaped the lives of thousands of kids who are making their way in the world now, better for having known you. I'm sorry I cannot be at the services honoring your life this morning, but you are in my thoughts daily, and I appreciate the opportunity to have had you as a teacher. What's more, know that you live on in our hearts and minds, and your influence will last long after you've gone: Tonight, when I pull out the detail map of our National Forest, I'm going to sit down with my little girl and tell her about this great guy named Mr. B who taught her daddy, with Grandpa's help, to read it.