Dear Scott and Kathy,
During my sophomore year of high school, I was at lunch and some kid threw a basketball right in my face. He almost knocked me out.
I looked up at the teacher and asked, “Are you going to do something?”
He said, “Just get up.”
That day I wanted to quit school. I was frustrated and upset. No teacher ever stood up for me or noticed that I was struggling or picked up on the fact I was wearing the same clothes for three days straight.
No one ever told me, “You can do this.”
For many years, I felt completely lost.
At home, I endured physical and emotional abuse.
I have always been a big guy.
If I grabbed seconds at dinner, I was told, “That’s enough for you porky,” or “You don’t need that fat boy,” or “You are going to be lazy for the rest of your life.”
Then, there were days my entire back was covered in bruises from beatings. Some nights during high school, I slept in my car or at a park or a friend’s house because I didn’t want to go home.
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I needed a teacher to step up and ask me what was going on or offer me extra help or attention in school. But no one ever did. Instead, I had no self-esteem and no self-worth. In academics, I often struggled. During my senior year, I failed my government course, so I didn’t get to walk with my class on graduation day. College never even seemed like a realistic option for me.
Ultimately, I ended up getting a job at Honda where I started off on the assembly line before moving to shipping and receiving. It was a solid job, but there were many days I didn’t show up because I was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed.
Thankfully, I started coaching sports. In my late 20’s I got the chance to coach a summer baseball team. We were successful. The kids gravitated to me because I treated them with respect and they knew I had their backs.
Coaching showed me that I could trust my instincts and lead people. I started to believe that I’m not a misfit or a loser.
My hometown high school offered me an opportunity to be a varsity baseball coach, where I also began to have success. Right around that time, I hurt my knee playing basketball. The doctor wrote me a note, excusing me from work. However, I continued to coach from the bench. Honda found out I was still coaching and after working for them for 13 years, they fired me.
Scott and Kathy, I knew you both from church and from around the community, but we got closer when I started coaching your son. You invited me to holiday dinners and welcomed me into your family. I truly felt cared for and loved by you. So, when I lost my job, I turned to you for guidance. I told you I could get another job similar to the one at Honda.
But both of you looked me in the eye and asked me, “What is your dream?”
I told you I wanted to do more than coach. I wanted to be a history teacher and I wanted to help kids.
You both encouraged me to go for it.
That was the moment I decided to no longer blame others for my failures and instead rely on myself for success. At 33 years old, I went back to school. After I graduated, I became a teacher, then a principal and for the last ten years, I have been a superintendent. Also, two weeks ago, I received my doctorate in education.
I am not your typical superintendent who wears a suit and is very formal. That’s not me. I wear a polo and khakis. Regularly, I attend games, plays and other events. If I see a child is having a bad day, I will call him or her into my office to talk. During lunchtime, I often visit the middle school or high school to sit down and eat with the kids. Periodically, I still help out and coach. My goal is to build relationships with my students. And those relationships last long after they graduate.
Parents have thanked me for meeting with their kids and students have come back and told me I changed the direction of their lives.
I try to be a consistent source of honesty, positivity, support and inspiration by treating my students the way you have treated me.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for saving my life.
It’s because of you and your love and encouragement that I am no longer lost.
I found my purpose.
Thanks to you, the type of teacher I once wanted for myself is the kind of educator I have become for others.
I am forever grateful. I love you both.