People often speak about teachers who influence the lives of their students. People may not realize that it is sometimes the other way around.
I had written a post for today about inexpensive learning gifts but that has been bumped to next Monday so that I can use this space to pay tribute to a young man named Taylor Emmons. Taylor was a student in my last fifth grade class [2001-2002]. I learned Sunday that he was killed by a car walking near his college campus in Florida, where his family now lives. Taylor was one of those students that before the school years is half over you know you will never forget. There were lots of them in that particular class. [It was as if God knew that it would become my last year of teaching [I didn't] and gave me the present of an amazingly wonderful group of children for my last group.] When I learned a week before the end of school that it would be my last year of teaching [after 32 years] I was heartbroken. Right or wrong I felt betrayed by colleagues I had trusted, I felt tricked by assurances and advice from people who had been friends. I was devastated professionally, personally and emotionally.
Enter Taylor, a fun loving, bouncy boy with an ear to ear grin and twinkling eyes who had been a delight all year. With the help of his parents I am sure, and a couple of friends, he thought of, planned, and pulled off a mind-boggling surprise for my last day. [To over simplify the story a great deal...Our class in Maine had corresponded all that year with one of the NYFD firemen from 9-11 after I met him near Ground Zero delivering cards from my class.] Taylor decided to [and did] track down, contact, and arrange for "Fireman Joe" to take the train from almost 400 miles away, stay at Taylor's house, and surprise me and the class that last day for a very special day. Taylor's plan turned one of the worst days of my life into one of the best memories of my life. The compassion and thoughtfulness that Taylor showed demonstrated a maturity greater than many many adults I have known. I know I told him several times since then how much that day meant to me, and I am glad I did, tho I doubt he understood the magnitude of its impact even so.
I expected Taylor to continue to grow and develop, and was eager to see what he would do as an adult. He might not have changed the world, but he might have. He certainly would have impacted the lives of those around him. His wonderful family will never get to enjoy the adult he would have become. But I will never, ever forget Taylor as he was. He was a true blessing in my life and I am very sure in many other lives as well.