As part of my job as Superintendent I get to do a fair amount of public speaking. In the month of May a fair amount turns into almost every night. That said, it’s a part of my job that I really enjoy because I often get to tell stories and share my gratitude. Last week I was able to speak to our retiring teachers in Worthington. It’s a group that I have have immense respect for and I hope my comments reflected that. Here is what I said:
“Good Evening. In my first year as Superintendent of Worthington Schools this event is one that I have looked forward to. It’s an opportunity to show sincere appreciation to those of you that give selflessly of yourself everyday to help our children and our community.
I’ve written my comments this evening to our retiring teachers but I think they are in many ways applicable to our friends of education as well. One of our timeless goals in Worthington Schools is that every child should have a trusted adult that they know cares about them and believes in them. Earlier this year I talked to our staff about the lifelong effect that former Worthington High School English teacher Jan Fish had on my life. Because I knew she cared about me and believed in me I performed academically for her at a much higher level than I did in other classes. Performing at that higher level for Mrs. Fish gave me the needed confidence to perform at a higher level for other teachers and eventually that snowballed. I believe she literally changed the direction of my life.
But, what I haven’t shared is the many little things that teachers do daily that sometimes have equal effect and are never forgotten by their students. And it’s in these little things that happen throughout a school day or a school year that I believe add up for a child. Like it was just yesterday, I remember sitting in the gymnasium as a student at Worthington Hills Elementary School. Kyle Lucas sat to my left and Jeff Brown sat to my right. We were supposed to be sitting with our legs criss-cross which in the 80’s we still called “Indian Style” and we were supposed to be waiting patiently for a performance of some kind to begin. Now I have no memory of what was going on in the gym or why we were actually there but I know that we were supposed to sitting quietly and we were not. We were being quite rambunctious and someone came up from behind me and put his or her hand on my shoulder. Instead of turning nicely to see who it was I loudly blurted out “Who the (insert the very bad F-word here) has their hand on me?” When I did turn around to my surprise the hand was not Kyle Lucas’ hand nor was it Jeff Brown’s hand. Instead the hand was our teacher’s hand, Mr. Bill Wolford. I was in big trouble. Trouble with a capital “T.” Mr. Wolford had a choice to make. He could rightfully drag me to the office. I had earned it. He could call my parents (I was thinking maybe I could live with my grandparents if I had to), he had options. But what Mr. Wolford actually did was neither of those things. He looked at me in the eye and bent down and whispered in my ear. He simply said, “Trent, you’re better than that.” That was it. He never spoke of it again, he never told my parents and actually I’m 43 years old and I’ve never told my parents that story. But at that moment Mr. Wolford made a choice in how to handle a situation and he chose mercy. And I’ve never forgotten it.
Throughout your career in education I imagine you’ve seen it all. You’ve inspired some students to do things they never thought was possible and you’ve likely had to make choices on whether discipline or mercy would best motivate a student. I simply want to say a sincere thank you! There is nothing more important than working hard every day to make a positive difference in the life of a child. You’ve spent your career paying forward and helping others. You’ve been asked to sometimes do the impossible and rarely could you have seen the immediate fruits of your efforts. But, your efforts made a difference. Your efforts helped make Worthington Schools one of the best school districts in Ohio. Your efforts set up students for future success that will pay off for generations.
There is no way to adequately show the necessary appreciation. My hope is that you are able to look back on your career with a sense of satisfaction. My hope is that as you move on to the next phase of your life you’ll look at your time with Worthington Schools with fondness and have strong positive memories of the students you’ve worked with and the friends you’ve made. My hope is that someday you’ll be on the beach or the golf course, or in a book store and someone you taught will remember you and thank you for changing their life.
On behalf of a grateful Worthington community I’d like to a sincere say thank you for your service. And best wishes for your future!”