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A Legacy of Education

I had quite a few thoughts running through my mind today
as I watched my Grandpa being driven through a parade 
at a high school.
He was the first principal there 30 years ago.
We cheered for him
and I was so impressed with the love that he was shown. 
It took decades of teaching and caring for the teachers that he worked with 
for him to be cheered for like that,
but oh how he deserved it. 

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Svea played with balloons that one teacher gave her off their float 
and eagerly watched the marching band go by. 



I couldn't help, but think about how blessed she is 
to have a future where she will be able to learn anything she chooses. 



We ran to catch up to my Grandpa to watch him go by again
and Svea couldn't contain her grin as he waved at her.


When the parade finally ended and we began to head out, 
we ran into our favorite saxophone player from the marching band
and Svea got to say hi.


I left with my heart full of so many thoughts, 
and just needed to share them. 
So read on if you'd like to.
Here's what was racing through my mind today as I cheered for my Grandpa:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I suppose it's different for other people.
They might choose their career based on 
the potential to earn a great salary
or the way that they are respected in that career for their unique knowledge.

They might think, 
"The days might be long, but at least I'll be done at 5pm,"
or 
"Well it'll be interesting to come up with plans for this funding that I was given."

They might have holidays that aren't filled with paperwork
that still needs doing
or 
they might have a little office space all to themselves with privacy to work. 

It's not like for teachers. 
We choose our career based on skills that we have, 
but it's so so much more than that. 

We choose based on a passion that we need to pursue,
on the desire to impact lives,
on the hope that we have for the rising generations,
on the unequivocal understanding that we will NEVER be compensated 
for all of the work that we do,
BUT WE STILL MUST TEACH.

In fact, the little compensation that we do receive
is usually partially invested right back into 
making our students' education better. 

I have heard it said by many teachers, 
"I just didn't know if I could make it through another year
of being treated like that by administration and parents, 
but then I got that one note from a student who said that I impacted their life for the better, 
and I remembered why I'm there." 

We have to constantly remind ourselves why.
Why we take the abuse of parents who are losing all respect for educators
(and in the process teaching their children a lack of respect for those around them).
Why we tolerate being paid for regular work hours 
when we work early, stay late, come in on weekends, and lesson plan during holidays. 
Why we have stretched out bladders from lack of bathrooms breaks.
Why our "lunch break" and any other break is just time to work more. 
Why we dream about lesson plans. 
Why we are scrutinized in every possible way by administration, 
the state, and the federal government. 
Why we break up fights and tend to wounds. 
Why we try so hard to get through to students who don't even want to learn.

WHY?!

Because at the end of the year, 
MAYBE one parent sends you a card that says, 
"My son has hated school from the very first year.
He hates learning and homework
and he can never keep up. 
But then you became his teacher
and for the first time in his life, 
he wanted to tell me about school. 
For the first time in his life,
he wanted to read with me. 
For the first time in his life, 
someone besides me reminded him that
HE CAN DO ANYTHING.
Your patience and encouragement has made all the difference."
(True story from my teaching time.)


And then after we stifle a few tears, 
we get up and keep going. 
We keep teaching.
Essentially, we keep loving. 

I am blessed to come from a family with a legacy of educators. 
My grandfather was a teacher and then a principal.
In fact, he was the first principal of Ironwood High School 30 years ago. 
I still run into people who work there and tell me, 
"You know Mr. Johnson?! He hired me! He's wonderful!"
To leave that kind of a mark on people for decades speaks for itself.

(This photo taken by the school.)

My father is a teacher who has given his all to his students every single year.
I was actually born on my father's birthday 
which was on his first day of his first year of teaching
and I grew up watching all of the sacrifices that he 
(and my mother)
made so that he could make a difference in the lives of his students. 
From bringing in eye witnesses from different historical events, 
to bringing relics for them to see, 
to sitting in the corner at family gatherings because the papers weren't done being graded
and he genuinely wanted to leave feedback for every student to help them, 
to making the cheesiest jokes in attempts to make learning as fun as possible,
he was an example to me. 
High school students can be some of the most ruthless, 
degrading, and thoughtless people 
when they decide that you aren't worth an ounce of respect, 
and yet year after year, 
my father has kept teaching and seeking out those who want to learn. 
He fights to put aside the countless frustrations of teaching
and see those young adults as people with limitless potential.

(My father with Magda Willinger, a Holocaust Survivor who we are friends with who comes in each year to speak to his students at his request.)

Then there's me. 
I started out as a nursing major, which I absolutely loved, 
but as the second year of college approached, 
I knew I needed to change majors. 
I was so frustrated
and I didn't understand why I should change from 
something that I truly was enjoying learning about. 
But suddenly I realized that teaching was what I needed to do. 
It wasn't really a choice.
Teaching chose me. 
I knew where I needed to be then. 
So I became a special education teacher. 
I was impacted more by my students that I could ever put into words. 
I taught until Svea was born 
and even now I'm realizing how much I love to teach her. 

There are so many valuable careers in the world that I am grateful for. 
My best friend is a nurse 
and I still don't even think she realizes the incredible impact that 
she has on the lives of her patients and their families. 
My mother is an estate planning lawyer
who was so sick of corruption and people being cheated, 
that she opened her own law firm 
and works hard to protect families, elderly, disabled, and veteran clients
so that they are financially stable for the rest of their lives
and their wishes are carried out. 
She is an angel who helps people in their darkest hours of need.
Both of my grandfathers and my great uncle are veterans
who gave their loyalty and years of their lives 
to defending our country and our freedoms. 
They are heroes. 

Still, 
teachers will always hold a most precious place in my heart. 
I am grateful for the incredible teachers who have impacted me
and I urge you to reach out in gratitude for the teachers who impacted your life
or the lives of your children. 
My family has left me with a legacy of the great importance of education
and I will preach it until my dying day
because I am a teacher
and I know this truth. 

Knowledge does away with darkness... and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. 
… In knowledge there is power."
- Joseph Smith
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