And Then I Met A Teacher

He met a teacher, and it changed everything.

red_apple Jim Wengo was fresh out of high school when he started working at the local butcher shop. But his high school agriculture teacher, John Krivokapish, had other plans for him. When he heard of an area college work study program for those who could score well on a civil service exam, Mr. Krivokapish walked into the butcher store and told Jim’s boss he needed to borrow him for a couple of hours.

Removing the blood stained apron, Jim followed his teacher to the local college where he took an exam on the spot. That test resulted in Jim’s opportunity to begin college.

He kept working as a butcher while he finished his degree. Then he was recruited into the Army where he served as an officer and engineer until his retirement. He traveled the world, raised a family, built his dream home, and now enjoys the benefits of a life of hard work and God’s grace.

He met a teacher, and it changed everything.

Dennis Queen had a difficult relationship with his father. When he dropped out of a high school, a local elementary school principal, Don Ross, drove over to his house and talked him into enrolling in summer school so he could have enough credits to graduate. Dennis joined the Marines.

After a four year tour of duty, Dennis returned home. He hadn’t communicated with Mr. Ross for four years. But his principal showed up again, drove him to a local college, and helped him enroll. Dennis became a teacher, a pastor, and eventually a school superintendent. His life has been one of incredible service and positive influence in the lives of others.

He met a teacher, and it changed everything.

These are both true stories told to me by men who have personally inspired me by their examples. I don’t know how many times you’ve heard the same story. Sometimes it is a coach, a pastor, a relative or neighbor. But they are all teachers–people like Mr. Krivokapish or Mr. Ross who are willing to invest their time in a younger person to encourage them to do something bigger, pursue a dream, take a step in the right direction. In turn, people like Jim Wengo and Dennis Queen inspire others, including me. Now it’s my turn. And yours too.

Four years ago, we started a program at my school called Mentor 180. Each year we team new ninth graders with a volunteer teacher and an older student. These teams meet weekly, and mentors provide direction, input, and listening ears to new high school students who may otherwise feel like they’re on their own. As a result, we have seen great improvement in many young people who were formerly labeled “at risk”.

Last year, we had one young lady who came to us having failed the year before and having endured devastating loss in her family and personal life. Her teacher and student mentor met with her weekly to coach and encourage her. She finished her freshman year passing all her classes–five of them with A’s!

She met a teacher and a mentor, and it changed everything.

People do amazing things when they have a someone who is willing to guide, direct, and influence them. Whether you are on the receiving end or the giving end in life, first take time to let your “influencers” know you appreciate them.

And then look around for someone who may just need to meet you.

Who were some of the “influencers” in your life? If possible, let them know they are appreciated. What are some other stories you know of people’s lives changed when they met a teacher? What innovative ways is your school connecting with young people who need mentoring?

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker