Towards the end of high school, I knew exactly what I was headed to college to become; a social studies teacher and coach, just like Mr. Dale Vaughan. He had such an impact on me as my 11th grade history teacher and football coach. The historical knowledge and football skills I learned from Mr. Vaughan were minimal compared to the life lessons of character, hard work, dedication, team, and pride. I could not wait to pass along those same lessons to my students. About the same time I was finishing my student teaching and college degree, Mr. Vaughan was finishing up his career as a classroom teacher, football coach, and activities director. Just days before his retirement and while working a high school softball tournament, Mr. Vaughan had a heart attack and passed away. How unfair, as he dedicated his whole life to positively impacting students’ lives, only to have his end so suddenly. So, this is one of my biggest regrets; I never thanked Mr. Vaughan in person or in writing for positively influencing my career path of becoming an educator.
As a classroom teacher, I always had my students write letters to former teachers to thank them during teacher appreciation week. As a preview to the letter writing, I told my students the story of how I never found time to thank my favorite teacher before he passed away. In 2000, I decided to participate in the same activity as my students and wrote a letter to Mr. Vaughan and sent it to his widow. Simply put, I acknowledged the positive influence Mr. Vaughan had on my career as an educator. A few weeks later, I received response from his widow, Nancy Vaughan:
“Thank you for your wonderful letter. Dale would be very proud of the job you are doing. I just wish it were here in Shakopee. You also have to be a special person to teach at the junior high level.”
In 2011, as I completed my doctorate degree, I again found an opportunity to recognize Mr. Vaughan’s impact on my career as an educator in my acknowledgements pages of my dissertation:
“I chose to pursue a career in education because of my 11th grade history teacher and football coach, Mr. Dale Vaughan. He challenged each student to “know thyself” and instilled the values of determination, dedication, pride, attitude, and teamwork, which have been applicable to all aspects of my life. These lessons have been especially important over the past several years of my academic and professional career.”
This week is #TeacherAppreciationWeek! What a great opportunity to #ThankATeacher. Thank a former teacher or a teacher colleague. What are you waiting for? Don’t put it off, because someday may be too late.