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John celebrates the impact of a special teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” -William Arthur Ward

The last time I saw Cathy Collins was at her home.

Before that evening, it had been more than 20 years since we’d visited. After learning she’d been diagnosed with cancer and was not responding to treatment, I wanted to see her, visit with her and thank her.

Her husband, Jack, met me at the front door, shook my hand and guided me through the house back to his wife. She was in their family room, resting in a large hospital bed. Although she was dying, Cathy still had a sparkle in her eye and a welcoming smile on her face.

Two decades earlier, the situation had been reversed.

After being burned, I was a scared, medicated, little kid recovering from burns in a hospital bed. I had bandages over my entire body, was connected to various machines, and was being prepared to go home. She was called in to tutor a nine-year-old boy who was in agonizing pain, could not focus, had no fingers, and didn’t really like school in the first place!

She walked into the hospital room, approached my hospital bed, flashed a big smile, and bellowed out that she was thrilled to get me ready to return to school. In the midst of chaotic days, she always treated me with unmitigated optimism, vibrant love and total certainty that better days were ahead.

Cathy didn’t see bandages or scars; she didn’t see disabilities or insurmountable odds. Instead, this fine teacher saw a little boy, who needed more time to heal, required a lot of help, but had limitless potential beneath the surface.

For several months in hospital, she was that help for me. And even after coming home from the hospital, Cathy tutored me in order that I might catch up with my class. She continued her efforts until I was physically well enough to return to school. She made learning fun, homework a joy, quizzes easy, and difficult days endurable.

She reminded me that my past challenges and current circumstances had no power to abrogate my future possibilities.

So, decades after she imparted that important life lesson with me, I sat on the hospital bed with a dying woman. I looked into her still brilliant eyes and that still radiant smile. I leaned down next to her, gave her a big hug and finally told her about her impact on my life, beginning with the words: Thank you, Mrs. Collins.

I then thanked her for believing in me when few others did. I thanked her for tutoring me when few others could. And I thanked her for loving me when I so desperately needed to know that everything would be alright.

I thanked her for dropping pebbles of encouragement, inspiration, knowledge, passion, and humor into my life. I thanked her for helping shape a man who became a college graduate, business owner, married a wonderful lady, had my own kids, and absolutely loved his life.

After I shared my gratitude, there was a long pause.

She wiped her eyes, smiled again and loudly proclaimed, “You graduated school?! There is a God and miracles happen!”

This woman exuded joy and humor when she worked with me as my teacher. She emanated that same joy, that same beautiful humor, until the end.

Mrs. Collins, thank you for stepping into my room and seeing potential. I remain grateful for your invaluable lessons on school and life.

And to all the teachers who step into children’s lives daily, regardless the challenges in front of you, we thank you for your effort.

Thank you for believing in your kids when others may not.

Thank you for loving them when they so desperately need to know that everything will be alright.

And thanks for dropping pebbles of encouragement, inspiration, knowledge, passion, and humor into their life.

For regardless the subject being taught, there is no finer foundation, no clearer lesson plan, and no more effective motivation than love.

A wonderful tutor taught me that lesson years ago. Our job now is to share it with others today.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.

8 replies on “Thank You, Teachers!”

John this phrase says it all for us & the future: She reminded me that my past challenges and current circumstances had no power to abrogate my future possibilities. Thank you for sharing this beautiful meeting so we can be firmly grounded and living-inspired daily! Bill A

Professor Darcy made history come to life. He inspired me to study the Middle Ages and learn from whence we came. He motivated me to seek excellence in all that I did. He motivated me to seek my post-graduate degree from both the University of Maryland and The Ohio State University. He changed my life!

Ms. Deb Rothweiller at Incarnate Word Academy, St. Louis, MO from 1984-88 was a blessing of a teacher for so many. She taught us what it looks like to lead by example. Big LOVE for her always and forever. #legacy

Hey my brother from another mother! Coach Richard Cotton also taught health. Not physical health, but Mental Health. His textbook was “See You At The Top” by Zig Ziglar. As a freshman, did I pay much attention? NOPE. But at this time in my life? YOU BETCHA, JOHN! (And Matt)! Not only am I following Zig’s philosophies, but I’m sharing them as a Certified Ziglar Coach! And I count Zig’s son Tom as one of my mentors!
Love ya, Brother John!

Sister Anthony taught us to open our ears and minds to what we didn’t know…by having us listen to classical and other music genres as 4th graders. Years later, I find myself listening to & better appreciating other people’s point of view before automatically jumping in with my own perspective.

Mrs. Calmes was my second grade teacher and changed my life. First grade had been difficult for me with a strict sister for a teacher. Because of Mrs. Calmes I started to love school, love learning, felt appreciated and cared for. I just adored this beautiful teacher and I still do to this day. Because of my writing career, we’ve had the chance to reconnect and she’s one of my biggest supporters. I’m so fortunate that I’ve had the chance to tell her multiple times how special she is to me!

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