A few years ago I had a chance to attend the retirement party for a former high school teacher of mine, Dave Craig. He was retiring after 47 years of teaching business related classes at Highline High School. In my senior year I took a block class from him called Office Occupations. Before attending his retirement party, I read a local news article about him that quoted him as saying
“You have to work very hard to get to know the needs of the students… You never know when they walk through the door what they have been through the night before”.
I was one of Mr. Craig’s students who was desperate to have needs met. Mr. Craig never knew how much I needed his encouragement (until I gave him a written note of thanks at his retirement party). I was raised in a volatile, destructive household—it was a living hell. I felt lonely, despairing, and hopeless during much of my childhood and high school years.
In a home where criticism and blame shifting, as well as other destructive behaviors were regular occurrences, I felt insecure in myself and my abilities. Mr. Craig’s class specifically, and school, in general, offered a place of sanctuary. I received encouragement regularly from Mr. Craig, and he helped me to experience and feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. He was the most encouraging teacher I ever had. Every day he greeted me warmly and enthusiastically. He called out my gifts regularly. He told me that “I was the fastest typist he had ever had”, and delivered other positive affirmations on an ongoing basis. I thrived under his encouragement.
Mr. Craig was a light for me in an otherwise very dark world. He gave me hope to keep pressing forward in my life. He provided me with office skills, and gave me a reference for an after school office job. I knew that if I worked hard in his class that I would be able to move out of my home upon graduation and become self supporting. The skills I learned in his class were my ticket to freedom. I was able to move out shortly after graduation and live independently.
About 25 years after graduation I ran into Mr. Craig at the hospital cafeteria where I work. I was touched that he still remembered me and he told me once again that “You are still the fastest typist I ever had”. He remembered me again at his retirement party a few years ago. Mr. Craig’s retirement party was filled with 47 years of students spanning the generations – people dressed professionally, in grunge, multiple ethnicities and backgrounds– each to honor a teacher who valued each of them individually and called out their gifting.
His example makes me want to be a person of encouragement – to call out the potential of others – to help them see the good that they may not see in themselves—to be a support and a positive influence – to leave light and hope.
Thanks Mr. Craig for the example you left for me to follow.