October 2nd. Today is October 2nd. New teachers, we made it to October 2nd, and soon it will be October 3rd. I joke with my colleagues about all of the daily moments that have found a way to get the reference, “You should blog this!” Whether it be the utter shenanigans that encompass our lunch hour or the undeniable frustration that takes over when the schedule has been changed or the students fail to complete their homework. Today, however, is October 3rd, and there’s only one thing that deserves to be focused on today: Pinktober.
Although I’m fortunate enough to talk to one of my angels on the phone every day, as she casually gives cancer the finger for being ten years cancer free, all I have left of the other is her picture and the memories. Kathy V. (she’s probably laughing that I’m referring to her as such, considering for the years that I knew her, she was simply a last name to me) played an intrigal part of my shaping into the hot mess, passionate woman that I am today.
She was more than a teacher, more than a prison guard for the nuthouse that was the hornet class of ’08, and more than a distinctly booming voice in the secluded coridor of the second floor. She was a dreamer herself. She dreamed of being a teacher that reached every student in some way, and over her twenty-four year career in public education, she did that and so much more. Kathy believed that every student that walked through her door, whether her student or not, was her child to love, to care for, and to guide in whichever direction they needed to go. So many mornings were spent reminiscing about her previous jobs over multiple cups of coffee; whether she was in the deepest parts of the hood or the holiest of catholic schools, she had faced it all: homeschooling for students waiting arraignment, pregnancies, deaths, family struggles, poverty, malnourished students, underappreciated students, misguided students, and more. For over twenty years, this woman has served as a source of love, encouragement, and pride for over twenty years worth of students. Every day I think of how lucky I was to know her for even the shortest of time.
I had never said this to her face (and god, I wish I had), but she is the reason that I studied English in college. I had grown up knowing that I was meant for a career in which I worked with people, helped people, and made a difference. From a young age, teaching seemed to be my calling. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I met a woman so beyond passionate about what she was teaching that I learned to be passionate about it, too. Interestly, I was only able to witness her greatness for a short while during that year, as she was diagnosed with breast cancer and immediately began both chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The remainder of the year was rough to say the least; I barely passed the course. Everything happens for a reason, and as my senior schedule finally had all of its kinks worked out, I found myself in the first seat of the first row during Kathy’s third period study hall where she proceeded to teach me everything that I had missed during my junior year as well as served as a supplemental teacher as I made my way through Ms. Cathy(with a C)’s British lit class my senior year.
Kathy passed away at the beginning of my first senior year of college, and I was devastated to say the least. Coincidence or not, shortly after saying goodbye and returning to school, I found myself blindly applying for what would be the job that changed my college career in the most astounding way. She always took care of me, even when I couldn’t see her. I’ve been thinking about her lately more than ever and wishing like all hell that I could have that morning cup of coffee with her and discuss her students.. and my students. We would laugh about the ridiculousness of my third period and marvel at how one student in my fifth period class tries harder than the majority of my students combined. I would tell her that every conversation we have ever had, whether it have been about family structures, siblings, test scores, or transferring, has stuck with me to this day and that she will always be the best role model that I’ve ever known.
The last bit of advice that Kathy had shared was written in my senior year book:
Be healthy, be happy, be loved.
Which brings me back to today, now October 3rd. From SGOs to Danielson, RAC and choice boards to 504s and IEPs, I seemed to have forgotten that everyday that I take the stage in front of my students, I can have the impact that Kathy had for me. There was never an overture or moment of grandure when the lightbulb had gone off for me; her passion had shown through her daily lessons, discussions, and antics. I could change the life of one of my dragons in the way that she had changed mine. By following Kathy’s advice, I can inspire the change that I strive for because I will be the best me that I can be, and it all starts with one touch of sunlight. In true Kathy form, I make a point to say good morning (or afternoon) to every single one of my classes because I can still hear her distict hello in my head two years after she had passed. The little moments surely added up to big moments, and in retrospect, she played the biggest role in my having a career today.
She had left her mark on my future, and I can do the same for my kids.
I can be a Kathy V.