35 years of doing anything is a long time. I am quickly coming to the end of my teaching career; 35 years of teaching special needs students…the last 28 of which were in my current room. I am excited and a bit melancholy at the same time. Excited to be able to move on to the next chapter (s) of my life and a bit sad to leave behind what I have been doing for a very long time.
I have always had a special place in my heart for those who try hard but don’t always have the ability to prosper and move forward. I actually started my career in special needs way back in 1978 at Bloomington High School North, when as a Junior I was a teacher’s assistant for a group of kids exactly like my current students. The next year, my senior year, with most of my credits accounted for…I filled the same role for three classes per day. I was hooked and what followed was a series of steps that leads up to my current position of having about 45 days left in my career.
I entered Indiana University at age 17 in 1980 and four years later received my BA in education. Like most I thought I would then enter the workforce and start teaching…alas a chance encounter with one of my professor’s from IU resulted in my return to IU and in August of 1986 I left Bloomington for Casper, Wyoming with a Master’s Degree in hand. It was in Wyoming that I started my teaching career (I received a years’ worth of teaching credit while completing my Master’s at IU) as I taught Adapted PE…PE for special needs kids. 6 years later I would make the 1200 mile return trip back to Indiana where I interviewed at my current school, Edgewood High School and on June 2nd of 1992 I started my current career teaching Certificate of Completion students.
Through the years I have coached eight (8) different sports at some level; my primary sports were volleyball and boys’ golf…where I was able to win 8 sectional titles and 2 regional titles along the way. In fact my 2009 boys’ golf team won the BNL Sectional and is still the only golf sectional win in school history, dating back to 1965. Even more special to me was the fact that my oldest son, Harrison, was a senior on that team and shot an even par 72 on his way to winning the Sectional Medalist title…again the only person to do so in our school history.
Harrison is now a special needs teacher as well and team-teaches with me at Edgewood. In 2005 I started a club at Edgewood called Best Friends. The goal in the beginning was to bring gen ed and special needs kids together in a social framework. In fact I did so to help my students have a way to socialize with others in our school. What I found was pretty simple…a lot of kids need a friend, gen ed and special needs alike. What really makes me proud is the fact that our little club has produced 15 different kids that left our club and went on to become special needs teachers themselves…that is quite a legacy!
In 2008 my wife and I made a decision to try something unique and different; we would take a group of special needs students on a class trip. Our first year we took 8 seniors to Washington DC for a total of 5 days. It was so special and life changing that this past September of 2019 we completed our final class trip, our 13th, when we took 9 students to Yosemite National Park in California for 5 days! Through the years we have been back to Washington two other times, been to Chicago, Mackinac Island (twice), Nashville, Chattanooga, Philadelphia, Niagara Falls and St. Louis. Each trip was both special and at times a bit difficult…but I wouldn’t trade any of the incredible memories we were able to share with my students.
I want to go back to the first class trip for just a second; the entire group was sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a warm September night, the full moon was rising directly over the reflecting pool to our east. In our immediate view was the Capitol Building along with the Washington Monument. We sat there on the steps, our backs just a few feet from the enormous sculpture of the ‘Great-Emancipator’, President Lincoln. We listened to a parks department ranger who gave a talk on the legacy of Lincoln…it was incredible. When she finished we took about an hour to discuss the future with these eight seniors who would soon be heading out into the real world in search of their future. Not far from where we sat was a seal on the ground just above these same steps; it was the same spot where Martin Luther King stood on August 28th of 1963 and gave the world my favorite speech, his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’. It gave me the chance to discuss how we, the USA, had moved from slavery, with its end just a hundred years prior with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation…to Dr. King’s immortal speech. It was indeed a magical night and one that I hope I won’t ever forget!
So…soon I will have lots more time on my hands. It is my hope that God will bless me with continued health so that Vickie and I can cross this great country and see all that it has to offer. I am excited to be able to fish when the fishing is hopefully at its best and not when I have a break from school. No one really knows what is left in their lives or how much time we have; you have probably seen or noted that at the end of each of my videos that I have posted Gal 6:9. If you aren’t familiar with my favorite verse, here it is: “Let us not get tired in doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessings…if we don’t get discourage and give up”. That verse has stuck with me since I was a little lad…little did I know how well it would prepare me for going off to school each day, taking each day head on, trying to do the very best I could each day…each day I gave my all to my kids and tried to move them forward in their lives.
If you see me on the road or maybe on a lake or a stream…give me a shout-out. Whatever amount of time I have left I am going to be moving forward and looking for my ‘harvest of blessings’.