Sunday, February 14, 2016

OWED TO GARY KELLY - VALENTINE’S DAY, 2016

      This past week, so many students and colleagues lost a wonderful soul: Gary Kelly.
Gary was a special man. He was consistently upbeat, friendly, caring, and always ready to lend a helping hand. He was a model teacher not just teaching his subject, History, but bringing it alive to his students so they could grasp its relevance. I recall the project he created for his students to study WWII and then interview and record the vets who came to be friends with some of these young people. What an incredible experience for all of them. These soldiers touched the lives of Gary’s students, and I’m sure they have never forgotten that experience. I was so impressed with his bringing that piece of history to life for them.

     Facebook has been overflowing with tributes and posts about Gary. The topic of their posts has been as much about Gary, the man, as Gary, the teacher. The point is that if you
are a teacher, it’s not just what you teach and how you teach it that resonates with your students; it’s who you are and what you model. Gary touched the lives of his students by simply being Gary—caring about each one of them and making them feel important and relevant. Even after he retired, he stayed in touch with so many and several of them mentioned things he had said about them and their families long after they had their own. Gary and I were peers (although he was taken way too soon). We both learned early on that people may not remember what we say, but they will certainly never forget how we made them feel. Many of our students are in their 40s and 50s with families of their own. They were all so lucky to have known this gentle soul who was not only intelligent and creative but genuine and loving.
    A friend of ours who moved away a few years ago said, “I never heard from anyone once we moved.” I ask myself who I would hear from if we moved. The real question, however, is why would someone want to keep in touch with me? The answer is in the message above. How do you make people feel? Will they walk away from you and say, “Wow! Look how accomplished that guy is!” or “I always feel like a million dollars after talking to that guy.” Hmm.