Their legacy lives on in me
As a young man I had no interesting in being involved with education, my mom was a teacher and I knew exactly what she and her friends did, and I always knew there was easier ways to make a living.
The two men I write about impacted my move into education greatly. I thank them, and guess they probably would laugh- because now I really understand what they were up against and appreciate them even more now.
John Stanford’s legacy still lives in me. John Stanford was the man who gave me hope that Seattle Public Schools could be something Seattle folks could be proud of. He focused on kids; I found the following quote when I was thinking about writing about my educational heroes. John Stanford told Damon Darlin of Forbes, “We lost our way when we became more interested in the employment of adults than in the education of children.”
I didn’t feel he was slamming the teachers; I felt like he was trying to take away the nonsense that made their jobs more difficult by focusing on the students’ success. It was that fact that he unapologetically focused on students’ needs that influenced me to volunteer at TAF. I could at least try to make a difference.
Now that I am working within the public school environment, I have even more respect for what he was able to do. I work every day with people at TAF and Federal Way School District that have the same spirit as he did. We are motivated by the success of our students. Though leukemia took him way too early, I still see him and his awesome smile when things get tough.
Tom was one of the faculty in the program Society and the Computer my freshman year at The Evergreen State College. That year was his first year teaching. He was a physicist by trade. As I got to know him during the year I found out that he had been working and Sandia Labs in New Mexico as a nuclear scientist prior to becoming a teacher. He shared that he had come to a decision that he could no longer work as a nuclear scientist. He changed career paths and became a teacher. He made the change to teach us writing, he was also a published poet.
I don’t know what he would think of my writing skills, but I think he would be happy about what decided to do. What he taught me was that we all have to make choices in how we want to live in the world, and we are the sole person responsible for acting on those choices. For me, education is about providing a situation where students can learn how to navigate and add to the world they live in. Tom turned the light on for me that I was responsible for what I did, and the choices I make. That realization really focused my drive as a student, my education was for me and I chose to embrace it.