Picture Source: http://positivepsychologynews.com/

After receiving numerous cards in emails the past week or so, I wanted to formally thank everyone for their support and encouragement.  Being nominated Teacher of the Year is an honor in its own right but to be accepted and chosen to represent a district filled with such talent is extremely humbling.  There are so many people that have influenced my teaching over the past 14 years and I carry their ideas and thoughts with me each day in the classroom.     Many people have asked that I post my comments at the Opening Day Celebration, so I have attached a copy of my acceptance speech and a link to the Prezi below.  Thank you again for your thoughts, prayers and support.  Have a Wonderful School Year!

PREZI LINK –  http://prezi.com/usgw6lufbdid/thank-you/

ENQUIRER Article:  http://local.cincinnati.com/share/news/story.aspx?sid=196523

Fairfield ECHO:  http://www.fairfield-echo.com/photo/news/fairfield-teacher-of-the-year-named/phsyT/

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

Good morning and thank you.  Those of you who know me, realize that I probably will embarrass a few of you as much as I can while I have the floor.  No… I’m just kidding!

I am happy to accept this award on behalf of all the incredible teachers I have known over the years.  I used to think that the Teacher of the Year was the best teacher around, but I have learned that many of the best educators are far too humble to be recognized easily.  However, I can stand up here as a symbol of these quiet, hardworking souls; who spend their lives happily serving in the classroom for the good of all of the children with whom they have been entrusted.

I want to thank my brilliant and beautiful wife without whom I would be nothing.  She always comforts and consoles, she never complains or interferes, she asks for nothing and endures all of my antics, and SHE even helped me write this part of my speech.

Well you know what Jim Carrey said, right?  He said…Behind every great man is a woman, rolling her eyes.  No, she is a wonderful woman and I love her dearly.  Stand up honey and wave to everybody.

None of us gets to be good at what we do without help.  So I thought back to the people who have helped me along the way.  Chances are you are probably sitting next to the people you have found to be most helpful right now.  They are the people who help you get through your day…your colleagues, your buddies.   And to those of you who are here for the first time, you are in for a great learning experience in the years to come! Working in Fairfield is synonymous with working with the best in the field.

Most of the people who helped me get started in education were people who grew up in the age of chalk.  You know what that it is, right?  That white powdery stuff that used to fill every classroom in America.  Those individuals understand that their words are much like that of the characteristics of chalk.  They know that if you press your ideas too hard, you are liable to break someone’s spirit.  If you press too easy, then your message becomes unclear.  If you don’t keep your palms out of the way at times, you can smear or distort your intentions quite easily.

You see, words are extremely powerful!  Words leave scars that are invisible to others, but the one who bears them never forgets that they are there.  They have the power to wound or heal.  They have the ability to discourage or encourage.  They can destroy or can breathe life into someone within an instant.  Our children need to know this great truth and it is through us that we can convey its greatness.  My grandfather always says “Don’t tell me, show me!”  Their impressionable eyes are fixed upon us all throughout the day.  Taking notice of our interactions with other students, taking notice of how we treat our colleagues and recognizing when we are using our words for good.

Being the first in my family to graduate from college and attain my Master’s could not have happened without the encouragement and support of my amazing family.  They have prayed alongside me and helped carry my load many of a time. My parents are my great encouragers to this day. I can remember them talking me through many nights in college when I was ready to throw in the towel.  My Mom’s famous line was “There’s no problem too big that WE can’t work out together.”  When she said to me “we can work it out” I felt at once changed and no longer alone, discouraged or afraid. The word ‘WE’ to me is still very powerful.  Thank you Mom and Dad!

My grandparents (Pearl and Dema Lee) have been my moral compass.  They have taught me what integrity and trust looks like and who I am truly serving in this life and that’s my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! My Aunt Sheila and Uncle Sam are who keep me humble, by keeping my ego in check.  They always find a way to make me laugh, even in most difficult times.  J  My Aunt Gale and Uncle Curt who have taught me about the simplicity of life.  My brother Jason, who has never let me forget all of the horrible things I did to him in our childhood, has taught me the meaning of perseverance. Amy, my bride and love of my life… she has such a heart of compassion and has taught me what “QUALITY time” truly looks like in a relationship.  And of course, our children… My daughter Alyssa and my son Eli who are so precious in my sight and who taught me about thankfulness and joy when they pile onto my lap in the evenings after a hard day at work and shriek with excitement that their Daddy’s home!  They are such a blessing to me! I am so glad that all of my family could be here with me today to share in this moment of recognition.

Many times it is our families who are cheated most by our profession.  We put our heart and soul into our jobs don’t we?  I drive by our school many times and still see some of our colleagues cars in the parking lot at 7, 8 and 9 at night.  They care deeply about what they do and it shows! It’s what makes Fairfield a great place to be.  Teachers and administrators alike, who give of themselves and of their most precious time for the good of our school district.

Our time is precious… The bible says…You don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

A very wise professor of mine shared something with me that I found to be very valuable in how I organize my time.  He shared this with me during a time when I felt stretched too thin in my life.  He said for me to “Imagine my life as a game in which you are juggling some balls in the air. Because in life, we are always trying to juggle various things at home and at work.  He said, You will soon understand that some of things we are trying to juggle can be viewed as a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other balls are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that principle and strive for balance in your life.  Decide what balls are made of glass in your life and protect them at all costs.

Use your time and words carefully, because neither one of them can be retrieved.  Our lives are a journey to be savored each step of the way! What if everyday was treated like a new beginning where all your worries were put to rest, the moment you fell asleep.  What if our confidence was placed in something bigger than our selves, so our dreams weren’t limited by our own fears and insecurities.

I want to share a story that I believe captures what it is I want to say about the words and time we share with one another.

We all know that a young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door.
It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls,
career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across
the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy
life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to
spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing
could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. The
funeral is Wednesday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old
newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

“Jack, did you hear me?”
“Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of
him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.

“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were
doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of
the fence’ as he put it,” Mom told him.

“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.

“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make
sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said.

“He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this
business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me
things he thought were important…Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,”
Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his
hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no
children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to
see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing
over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house
was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture,
every piece of furniture….Jack stopped suddenly.

“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked.

“The box is gone,” he said.

“What box? ” Mom asked.

“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I
must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell
me was ‘the thing I value most,’” Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered
it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had
taken it.

“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I better
get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.”

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from
work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required
on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within
the next three days,” the note read.

Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and
looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was
difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

“Mr. Harold Belser” it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There
inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read
the note inside.

“Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack
Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped
to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack
carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold
pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing,
he unlatched the cover.

Inside he found these words engraved: “Jack, Thanks for your time!
Harold Belser.”

“The thing he valued most…was…my time.”

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and
cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his
assistant asked.

“I need some time to spend with my son,” he said.

“Oh, by the way, Janet…thanks for your time!”

Have a wonderful school year and THANK YOU for your time!