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  • Ethan Switch

Bell to bell for life. It’s how our best teachers stay with us, whether we’re thinking of them or not. That’s because they were always thinking of us, among other noble intents and acts.

The great teachers who went that extra mile – the ones to whom your best outcomes were the only goals – stay with us forever, year round. Their contribution to our lives takes no holiday and is forever without recess, permanence of influence established whether known or of later discovery. As the adults who spent the most waking hours of our youth with us, their selflessness and positive impact cannot go unsaid. We owe it to ourselves and their legacy to thank and salute them always where the best differences have been made.

By way of true-story vignette in four parts ~

Works of Art, Works in Life ~ Mary “Spike” Patten

Bad teachers? With time, they're forgettable. I had good teachers, fortunately – more luckily, a few really great ones, like Ms. Harris. The auto accident had burned her so badly. Though terribly scarred, remarkably she came back to school a year later as if nothing had happened. But something had happened. It was a before and after that shook everyone…except her, it seemed. That rare breed of laid back art teacher and intensity-driven track and field coach: That was her. She gave me my name, knowing I really didn’t care to be called Mary. She cared about our work and effort and would settle for nothing less than our best. The auto accident had maimed her but it was like she’d never missed a beat. Relentless demands, even if we thought we were no good at drawing pieces of fruit or doing wind sprints. We knew she expected full focus and that’s what she got out of us.

For Knowledge and Integrity ~ Ethan Switch

The man donated his body to science. His word was his bond – he had one set of rules. Strong, firm, fair and rigorously honest. Legions of Gulf Coast prepsters thank him in ways we are only starting to see. He looked like Sean Connery. School legends abounded that he was ex-Special Forces in Vietnam. He was our cool, tough guy – his voice stayed the same always. Armed with an iron finger to chest poke a young man to his senses, Mr. Donovan embodied the character he sought education to build. He didn’t tell us what to be. He showed us what we could be. The man was feared but way more revered. A math teacher by subject and leader by purpose, he made it clear with three oft-repeated words: “Work the problem.” Somehow, he knew everything would find a way to take care of itself…or so he got us to believe to our benefit.

Discipline Notes from the Sand Pit ~ Scotty Reynolds

To him, the recruits of Platoon 205 did nothing but “run around like a bunch of little girl scouts.” We couldn’t do anything right and Sgt. Jones let us know it. He yelled non-stop and wore us out in the sand and barracks until we cracked. Thirteen weeks of boot camp and it never got any easier – we felt like we were nothing to him until the night before graduation. A recruit asked, “Sir, why all the screaming and iron discipline – it’s not like anyone would have ever disobeyed anyway.” He took off his drill instructor's hat – that famous olive drab campaign cover worn by very few – and laid it down in simple terms. “Why?” he asked back, a small tear streaming down his left cheek. “So I know if I’m hit you can get yourself across that battlefield and bring me back.” At that moment, it all made sense. In that moment, we saw that we were everything to him.

Failing – for Success Itself ~ Vicki Malene

Ms. Chester wasn’t the funniest of teachers but she was even and meant business. English isn’t an easy language and she made it a point of repeatedly instructing as such. She demanded precision and endless revision. “It’s not math, but you’ve got to be correct.” As one who always meant what she said, her words convinced on their own. Like eating spinach, we knew it was good for us. Liked? She thought it was nice but not necessary. In the end, she was certain that we would be measured by our ability and confidence in our own language. If thanks would come or not for that, fine. She wasn’t concerned with pleasing us as much as she was determined to make sure we could effectively communicate the written word. No one got out of her class absent the ability to write coherently, including me, despite my best efforts against myself. “Take the ‘F’ to make your ‘A’ – it works every time.” Right she remains and beyond language itself.

By way of your own memories ~

When you think of your best teachers, what stands out? What was it about any of them that made a difference for the better in you? Was it slow? All of a sudden? What was the learning moment or journey that brought you to your best self? Then consider ~

  1. Can you locate and contact your best teacher(s) to thank? A five-minute email means a lifetime of gratitude.

  2. If you can’t find or locate any, write a letter to them anyway and keep it until it can be delivered one day to them or their families.

  3. Do either of the above today for both worthy reflection and gesture.

Our best teachers never looked at their work as mere jobs. They saw their work as our lives and best futures in the balance. For their hours of devotion, we should all find a few minutes to find a way to let them know their importance and always to remember.

@HbPrep, old school never forgets.


A Texas Two-Step Remembrance~ This month’s Blog Journal is dedicated to the memory of all who perished in Uvalde in the last week of May and to Goliad-raised actor Lenny Von Dohlen, who passed on July 5th.

The undaunted courage of Robb Elementary students, teachers and parents cannot go unsung – their sacrifice and loss should forever remind us of what education represents in the best of us and the importance of truth itself. Their individual and collective characters transcend the unfathomable acts of carnage and cowardice of May 24th. In the name of justice itself, they have paid the ultimate price. We owe it to them to ensure all facts are known and that the lessons of this unthinkable set of events go never forgotten.

The talents and contributions of Lenny von Dohlen are destined to stay with us as well. A fine son of a Lone Star State family who never forgot his roots, he excelled in New York and Hollywood on stage, screen and television. Strikingly handsome and even more humble, he embodied a leading man’s presence while always versatile and memorable in every part, large and small. His love of home was its own calling card, just as his appeal to audiences far and wide left his unique signature. As go life works and legends, his will forever live on.

Mid-April through July ~ three months in @HbPrep: Through our real-world-now Blog Journal and the historical fiction of Prep Stories set 100 years ago, along with smart library and self-study resources, we aim to bridge past to present for top futures. Thanks for being with us!

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